Morgan City moves forward with parkway houses

By: JEAN L. KAESS

MORGAN CITY — While they may be expensive because of their location, the lake houses planned for Lake End Parkway will be luxurious.

Bids for construction of three cabins of the 18 planned were awarded Tuesday night at the cost of $837,855 to Louisiana Contracting Enterprises of Thibodaux.

One of the units is handicapped accessible, complete with a handicapped lift and accessible kitchen and bathroom.

A large part of the cost is due to the lake houses’ placement outside of flood control structures. Codes are strict as to height and construction requirements because the area could be subject to flooding and associated wave action, Architect Carl P. Blum of Morgan City explained.

“We want to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ funds, but if we want to build cabins out on the lake, that’s what you’re going to have to deal with,” Mayor Tim Matte said in reference to the increased costs because of FEMA flood elevation requirements.

Plans call for the lake houses to be elevated eight feet above existing grade to meet FEMA requirements for flood protection.

Describing the units, Blum said “the upper level consists of two bedrooms and two baths, full kitchen and living-dining area. Sleeping space for six to eight is provided. All living and sleeping spaces have views of Lake Palourde. Metal roofing and painted cement board siding along with insulated, impact resistant windows and doors will complete the exterior.

“The lower level provides a roomy screened porch for seafood boils and relaxed outdoor living. Two covered parking spaces also are provided. Each unit is protected by code-required sprinkler and fire alarm systems.”

The cost for construction is $96.70 per square foot and compares favorably with the only comparable cabins in the state, those at Fontainebleau State Park overlooking Lake Ponchartrain. In 2009, cabins at the park, smaller than the planned ones in Morgan City, were valued at $209.61 and $183.46 per square foot.

Each unit will be connected by a limestone drive to the existing road system that was constructed by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina. Future phases of construction will add docks with covered pavilions over the lake and 15 more lake houses.

“For my 61 years, a common refrain in M.C. has been ‘When are we going to take advantage of the beautiful lake and do something so that people can see and use it?’ It took political courage to move forward last night and I hope the mayor and council will be praised for providing the leadership that this area needs to finally begin to reach our potential,” Blum said this morning by email.

After revising the original bid of $854,985 downward with a change order slightly over $17,000, the council approved the bid by a vote of 3-2 with Councilmen Luke Manfre and Louis Tamporello Jr. voting against the project.

The state is paying $575,000 of the construction cost with the city picking up the remaining portion of the tab. That city money is coming from Lake End Park’s building and maintenance fund, Matte said

While the project does not appear to have a large profit potential right now, Matte said it is the anchor of a much larger planned project to utilize the lake and turn it into a tourist destination.

In other action Tuesday, the city council:

—Agreed to engage demographer Mike Hefner at a cost of $12,900 to undertake the city’s required redistricting. Plans must be turned in by August in order to have city elections on time, Matte said. While the city showed a loss of less than 300 people in the 2010 census, population shifts in Districts 3 and 5 necessitate the work.

—Learned the city collected $3.25 million in general fund sales tax revenues, $1.68 million in pollution abatement and $1.71 million in general fund ad valorem taxes in 2011. Also in 2011, the flood fight cost the city $420,149, of which $315,112 is expected to be reimbursed.

—Learned that for the month of January, the general and ancillary funds have a favorable variance of $69,400, a favorable variance of $44,500 in the utility fund and a $41,400 favorable variance in the sanitation and sewer fund.

—Learned the fund balance in the police pension and relief fund at the end of 2011 was $465,361.

—Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Minden to purchase two high-voltage electrical breakers at $5,000 each.

—Accepted a donation of a lift to the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium from Lee Dragna. The value of the property is $6,000.

—Approved a resolution calling for Bill Hidalgo Sr. to represent the area on the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority board.

—Heard from Danny Bergeron, a Second Street resident, who was concerned about construction at 202 Ann St. which is planned for rental units. Bergeron asked the city to oversee construction and make sure it is in accordance with all city laws and construction codes.

—Approved a request from Maison Jardin to host a Memorial Day event in conjunction with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars unit, at the new Cypress Park, which city leaders said is scheduled to be complete by that time.

—Reappointed Carolyn Watson to the city’s library board.

The entire council was present for Tuesday’s meeting.

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