Jennings City Council expected to OK bid for hurricane recovery projects

JENNINGS – The Jennings City Council is expected to approve a project bid next month which will allow the city to move forward on the first phase of repairs to city-owned structures damaged by last year’s hurricanes.

Mayor Henry Guinn said the council is expected to award an $887,300 bid to L.K. Breaux and Associates at it’s Dec. 14 meeting. The Crowley-based company was the lowest of five bids recently submitted for the project.

The project is expected to begin Jan. 1.

Under the first phase of the project, the city will repair damages to the City Hall, City Court and the Tourism Office. The first phase of recovery is expected to cost $724,000.

“We have to put a new roof on the City Hall because we received a significant amount of water damage on the second floor above the Zigler Art Museum, which also had damages,” Guinn said.

The Zigler Art Museum, located on the first floor of City Hall, will have to temporarily close and all artwork will be moved to safe storage while the repairs are being made.

“The City Hall is probably the more complex repair because of the occupants inside it,” Guinn said. “We have people who lease space from us and we have millions of dollars of art downstairs that we have to relocate, so City Hall is a little tricky.”

Repairs are also needed for water damage to the judge’s chambers and file room at the City Court located on South State Street. The court will remain open during repairs, but some temporary moves will be needed for the judge’s chamber and secretaries as the work progresses.

A new roof, new interior and exterior are also needed at the city-owned Jeff Davis Parish Tourism Office located at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park off I-10. The office will temporary relocate next door to the Gator Chateau while the repairs are underway, Guinn said,

The city also plans to rebuild the oil derrick replica and its surrounding ornamental fence at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park. The $149,000 project is not covered by insurance and is not included in the bid.

The city is continuing to mitigate with the insurance company on the second phase of the hurricane recovery project. It hopes to bid the project early next year.

Phase 2 will include new roofs for the city’s fire and police department, Fire Station 2, street department, animal shelter and sewer lift stations.

Guinn said the city has been working with insurance and FEMA officials for two years to move the projects forward.

“It takes time to get everything documented the right way so you can mitigate what’s storm damage and what’s deferred maintenance,” Guinn said. “ Our architects also have to draft all the plans and the plans have to be sent to the insurance company who has to approve or disapprove them and decide what is storm related.”

With over $33 million in assets covered by property insurance, it took the city some time to survey and document the damages, he said.

“This year is probably the first year in decades that the city did not budget one capital outlay project,” Guinn said. “We rolled over our streets from last year because we weren’t able to do it because of the hurricanes and COVID-19, but we did not apply money to anything because we did not know what insurance or FEMA was going to cover or what the cost of materials were going to be.“

“We really sat still this year and I hope people don’t think we aren’t doing anything because we are in conversations every day with our legal department, third party attorneys that we’ve hired and our insurance adjusters to make this as smooth and effortless as possible,” he continued. “None of that can happen without architects drawing the plans and us providing the plans to the insurance adjusters to look at. Those plans probably have to go back and forth three or four times before we get a firm yes, this is approved.”

FEMA will not step in until everything with the insurance company is settled, he said.

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