Jefferson Parish looks for ways to fund fire training center

Jefferson Parish officials are cobbling together funding to move forward with an administration and training center for the parish’s firefighters after initial bids on the deal came in well over budget.

The Jefferson Parish Council is scheduled to consider rejecting all bids for the Samuel “Sammy” Lazzara Fire Training Center at the board’s meeting Wednesday after the lowest bid came in $590,000 more than the project’s roughly $1.4 million price tag. Six companies bid on the deal with the valid bids ranging from $1.99 million to $2.59 million.

However, Joseph Greco Sr., the director of the Eastbank Consolidated Fire District, said he believes the parish can avoid that drastic step, which would delay the project further and possibly require the parish to reduce its size. Greco said the Louisiana Department of Public Safety has agreed to contribute $300,000 to the construction of the building, and Parish Councilman Paul Johnston will kick in $150,000 from his discretionary fund.

Greco added that if the parish can move forward with the current design, and keep the building at 10,000 square feet, that would be optimal.

“Why build a new one if we’re going to build it the same size as what we have,” Greco said. “It wouldn’t make sense to build it the same size as we have.”

The parish’s existing training and administration center in Bridge City has become dilapidated and outdated over the years and desperately needs an upgrade, Greco said. It has only two classrooms, one of which is tiny. He said the new center would include a new state-of-the-art presentation room with stadium seating and modern video equipment. In addition, the building would have a large classroom that could be shifted into different configurations.

The parish’s roughly 225 eastbank firefighters use the center on a daily basis, and firefighters from the West Bank’s volunteer departments and fire departments at local plants train there as well. In addition to the indoor operations, there also is outdoor equipment.

Greco said another perk of the new center is that firefighters could be housed there during natural disasters instead of staying at West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson General Hospital.

“That would be available to them if they need shelter,” Greco said.

Councilman Elton Lagasse is paying for the bulk of the project with about $1 million from his discretionary fund. Greco said Eastbank Consolidated is contributing another $400,000 from its capital projects budget, and the training center is contributing $110,000 from the fees it collects for training sessions.

The project has been discussed for three or four years, Greco said, and the contractors say the cost of materials has risen significantly since it was first designed. The new building will be about 100 yards from the existing training center, which will be used for storage. Greco said the parish is ready to move forward with the project as soon as funding is assembled.

Aegis Construction Inc. was the approved low bidder on the project at $1.99 million. Another company, Summit Integration Systems, submitted a $78,000 bid, but that did not include all parts of the project. The training center has bid alternates for a generator and dedicated power pole. Aegis bid $112,000 for the generator and $12,000 for the power pole.