Cost of removing asbestos unknown
Demolition of the abandoned LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center in north Baton Rouge could cost more than anticipated because of asbestos and other environmental concerns.
“We don’t demolish very many facilities this large. We don’t want to make any missteps,” said Mark Moses, the director of state Facility Planning and Control.
“We know there’s asbestos in the building. We also want to check for lead and other environmental contaminants.”
“This particular building will take a little more time,” he said.
The state construction program contains $1 million for hospital demolition, but it is uncertain whether that will be enough, Moses said.
“It is highly dependent on the amount of hazardous material we find,” Moses said.
Legislators in whose district the hospital is located don’t want the hospital to become an eyesore on the heavily traveled Airline Highway.
State Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, got the $1 million inserted in the state’s construction budget for hospital demolition as well as legislation passed under which the property would be transferred to the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority as part of a redevelopment effort.
What will eventually occupy the space is the subject of discussions.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s going to be journey,” Broome said.
Broome has suggested a mixed use development with commercial and residential components could eventually occupy the space.
Broome said she is not surprised about building problems. “The whole issue of asbestos has been talked about for a long time in conjunction with that hospital,” Broome said. “I know they want to exercise due diligence in the whole process. We want to make sure we don’t have any additional challenges in the long-run.”
Broome said she is confident that additional funds can be made available if project costs rise.
State Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, said she has been told that the demolition “is a big job and there’s a lot to be done.”
However, she said it is becoming costly because of 24-hour security requirements.
Initial steps have begun to clear the way for demolition of the north Baton Rouge hospital that provided care for the poor and uninsured for 45 years before its shuttering in April as part of the Jindal administration’s privatization efforts.
The Louisiana Property Assistance Agency has already removed any items that can be used by another state agency or sold at auction as surplus — “anything deemed salvageable that was left in the building,” Moses said.
Letters have also been sent to legislators in whose district the hospital sits alerting them to demolition plans, an action required by state law, he said.
Moses said the state will perform additional testing in the building so it will have a better handle on the location of asbestos and other environmental concerns.
The state will then hire a design professional who will take the information the state provides and prepare a set of documents for environmental mediation before we bring the building down,” Moses said.
“It’s a little difficult for us right now to put a time frame on demolition,” Moses said. He said the state must first get a handle on the environmental issues.
“We hope to have a better time line by the end of the year,” Moses said.
Earl K. Long closed April 15 when LSU moved its inpatient operations and medical education programs to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center off Essen Lane in south Baton Rouge.
Earl K. Long is located on a 13-acre tract off Airline Highway in north Baton Rouge.
There are 14 structures on the property, among them a hospital, a medical clinic, sub-specialty clinic, the Mental Health Emergency Room Extension, an emergency medical resident education building, a medical library and administration building.
Broome said efforts are ongoing to determine if any other buildings on the property are salvageable.
The hospital opened its doors to its first patient in March 1968.
Both hospital and medical education programs were running into problems with accreditation by national groups because of the antiquated building.