Work to begin on facility for EMS, coroner

Crews will soon break ground on a new joint headquarters for the city’s emergency medical services and the Coroner’s Office, bringing to an end the agencies’ post-Katrina stays in temporary quarters.

The new facility will be built on Earhart Boulevard at South Claiborne Avenue. Test piles are being driven on the site. Work is expected to begin late next month and wrap by June 2014, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant told the City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.

The project is expected to cost $12.8 million and will be funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency and disaster community development block grants.

Work on the new building was supposed to begin in mid-2012 but was delayed because of environmental remediation work and FEMA funding issues, Grant told the committee.

The Coroner’s Office was previously housed in the Criminal District Court building on Tulane Avenue. New Orleans EMS made its headquarters in a facility on Moss Street in Mid-City, just off of Esplanade Avenue.

Hurricane Katrina and its related damage forced the agencies to relocate to quarters that could house them in the interim, but not properly.

The Coroner’s Office has operated out of a converted funeral home in the 2600 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard in Central City.

Bodies are stored in refrigerated trucks behind the building.

For a short time, some employees had to operate out of a second temporary office at the New Orleans Police Department’s 1st District station after a fire in April 2011 damaged the building on Martin Luther King. Other staffers, such as pathologists, conducted autopsies in the burned facility while repairs were ongoing.

Meanwhile, EMS administrators have operated out of trailers at Lafitte Street and North Jefferson Davis Parkway in Mid-City, while other staffers work in temporary facilities in the 300 block of Calliope Street on the edge of the Warehouse District.

Grant said the new facility should give the agencies the space they need to properly function.

The Coroner’s Office will have about 24,000 square feet of the building, and EMS will have about 13,000 square feet, he said. “It’s a comprehensive facility,” Grant said.