Commission to review construction project list

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The state construction budget will help fund a road extension, shown here last week, that eventually will lead to a new dock at the Greater Baton Rouge Port.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- The state construction budget will help fund a road extension, shown here last week, that eventually will lead to a new dock at the Greater Baton Rouge Port.

From delving into more chapters of World War II to building additional ball fields at a Central sports park, the state construction budget touches multiple parts of Louisiana.

State officials will decide this week whether to borrow the money necessary to generate dollars for a range of projects that secured the governor’s endorsement.

The projects slated for cash lines of credit include a city hall for Central, a new heating and air conditioning system for a New Orleans visual and performing arts high school, and a road extension for the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission.

Also on the list:

Because legislators sent him a $4.3 billion, multiyear construction budget crammed with too many projects, Gov. Bobby Jindal whittled down the cash lines of credit to what the state could afford.

Among the projects lost in the purging were a new roof for Southern University Laboratory School and building renovations at the Anna T. Jordan Community Park on Stilt Street in Baton Rouge.

The list will go before the state Bond Commission Thursday. The commission, which oversees state borrowing, will decide whether to back the governor’s list.

Jindal did not make his decisions public until after efforts to hold a special session focusing on his health care and prison cuts failed. The governor opposed a special session.

State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, said a number of important projects in his district fell victim to the governor’s construction budget whittling. Nevers backed the special session.

Jindal axed $490,000 for a Tangipahoa Parish courthouse project and $160,000 for Washington Parish emergency sewer repairs.

“Certainly, I’m concerned,” Nevers said, adding that he hopes to change the governor’s mind.

Another special session organizer, state Rep. Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux, said he had little in the construction budget for the governor to cut.

The governor trimmed down a bloated construction budget last year before advancing the borrowing requests to the state Bond Commission. Money for the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission ended up on the chopping block.

This year, Jindal recommended a $1 million cash line of credit for the port commission remain intact.

“It means a good continuation of our growth ... The infrastructure we’ve built here continues to lure private companies,” said Jay Hardman, executive director of the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission.

He said the money will be used to extend a road that eventually will lead to a new dock on the Intracoastal Waterway.

David Barrow, chief administrative officer for Central, said a $150,000 cash line of credit will help the city keep up with growth by providing money toward an administrative building for the mayor, police chief and City Council.

“We don’t have a city hall out here. We’re just renting a little building,” he said.

BREC retained and lost funding in the governor’s cuts.

Gone are dollars for a children’s museum and the Anna T. Jordan Community Park.

However, the Baton Rouge park system should receive a $150,000 cash line of credit for the Central Community Sports Park.

BREC Assistant Superintendent Ted Jack said the plan was to renovate and expand a 1960s-era recreation center at the Anna T. Jordan Community Park. The center lacks air conditioning in the gymnasium.

“It’s pretty old so it’s got that issue,” he said. “We want to renovate the existing portions of it.”

Instead, with state money materializing for only one of the parks, BREC will focus on adding more ball fields and a playground at the soon-to-open Central Community Sports Park.

In the New Orleans area, the governor agreed that the Bayou Segnette Sports Complex, the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, the Port of New Orleans and the National World War II Museum should receive cash lines of credit.

Lydia S. Folse, general manager for the John S. Alario Sr. Event Center in Westwego, said by email that the $4.5 million for Bayou Segnette will address structural deficiencies, including roof repairs.

“I believe the objective is to bid out the roof repair design in the very near future, possibly next month,” Folse said.

The Port of New Orleans is seeking $10.16 million in state funds to improve the Milan Upland Yard. The state construction budget calls for the project to receive a $1 million cash line of credit.

Like the Baton Rouge park system, the governor’s recommendations fulfill only a portion of the requests made by the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.

The center, which schools 614 students from 15 parishes in the performing and visual arts, sought money for a new heating and air conditioning system as well as dollars to help turn warehouse space into teaching studios.

The governor greenlighted the $700,000 for the heating and air conditioning system but nixed the $850,000 for the teaching studios.

Kyle Wedberg, the center’s president and CEO, said the school’s heating and air conditioning system is at the end of its life and lacks adequate tonnage.

He said the center also is in the process of acquiring nearby warehouse space to expand the school’s square footage. The nixed construction, or capital outlay, money would have been used for furniture and fixtures.

“The state isn’t paying for the building,” Wedberg said. “The state isn’t paying for the buildout. But the state would be paying for the furniture.”

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans is set to receive a $750,000 cash line of credit to help with an expansion.

The museum’s CEO, Becky Mackie, said visitors wanted to see more chapters in the war. A new two-floor building of exhibit space will tell about the roads to Tokyo and Berlin, she said.

With the combination of private and state dollars funding the effort, the stories of those campaigns will start unfolding to the public in spring 2014, she said.