Southern Creole Foods is a Creole food manufacturing and distribution company that produces classic soups, authentic seasonings and sauces that are chef inspired. (Photo courtesy of Southern Creole Foods)
Last Modified: Monday, February 22, 2016 11:58 AM
JENNINGS -- The old James Ward Elementary School could soon become the home of a Texas-based Creole food manufacturing and distribution company.
The Jeff Davis Parish School Board is considering a five-year, $62,000 lease-to-own agreement with Southern Creole Foods of Beaumont, Texas.
Under the agreement, the company would pay 36 payments of $500 for a total of $18,000, with the remaining purchase price of $44,000 to be paid in 24 installments of $1,834, or paid in full, whichever comes first.
“This would bring a tenant to an otherwise empty building and provide a new business on the south side of Jennings,” said District Attorney Michael Cassidy, who is negotiating the lease for the School Board. “It would be a valuable service and provide much-needed jobs to that area.”
The board has been negotiating the terms of the lease since accepting a bid in August from Southern Creole Foods, represented by Olivia Lawdins.
Superintendent Brian Lejeune said there have not been a lot of offers on the building because it is not in the best condition. The building has sat empty for 11 years, since the school was moved to the former Northside Junior High on Shankland Avenue.
“It costs us more to insure and maintain every year than it is actually worth, and it’s sitting there empty,” Lejeune said. “We are paying $22,000 a year to carry insurance on it. That’s $66,000 in the three years it has been on the market.”
The School Board discussed the lease Thursday, but members delayed final approval, saying they needed more time to review the lease terms after questions were raised about subleasing, insurance and breach of agreement.
Because the property and building are so large, the company wants to sublet it without prior notice to the School Board, Cassidy said.
He said the board needs to review the contract and decide who has what rights, including insurance liability, he said.
The law requires the School Board, as owners of the property, to carry liability insurance on the building. But there are some issues of concern regarding liability, Cassidy said.
The board’s current insurance will pay for any major injury that could occur because of the condition of building, he said.
Southern Creole Foods will also have to its own liability insurance as the tenant to cover any injuries caused by its fault or negligence, Cassidy said.
“We also need to decide what would happen if they should breach the terms of the lease,” he said. “What if they make improvements to the building but breach the lease? I feel we should remain the owner of those improvements.”