Repair, not replace visitors center
By ROBERT R. JONES III
The Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau is making progress in planning to repair the Welcome Center and Interpretive Facility in Morgan City, according to attorney Gary McGoffin.
The new facility suffered a major foundation failure June 14 before being accepted as substantially complete.
At a bureau meeting Wednesday, the general consensus of all the parties involved was that it would be substantially less to repair than to replace the $3.7 million structure, McGoffin said.
Repairing the facility will cost about $2.7 million.
“The good news is we continue to make progress,” McGoffin said. “We are meeting on a weekly basis with the contractors, the design professionals, builders risk professionals, all of the liability carriers and their counsels as well. It has been a very collaborative effort in terms of going through and looking for a solution to the problem … Everyone around the table believes we have a structure that can be repaired, serve its purpose, look good and last the way it is supposed to.”
A major goal of the bureau is to be in the new facility by the end of 2013, McGoffin said.
In reaching that goal, Cajun Coast is looking to begin repairs on the structure during the low-water season for the site, October or November, he said. Plans are being made to achieve this goal and are expected to soon be presented to the Cajun Coast commission at a future special meeting.
At that point, McGoffin said he anticipated being able to present the options about what is going to be done to the building.
In working out “the cure” for the structure, there have been three components: repairing the structure where there are no future worries; working through contractual issues; and working out payment for the repairs, the attorney said.
The involved parties are working through the contractual phase of the process and McGoffin said he thought “we have a decent handle on the alternatives that are available.”
There was a meeting planned for Tuesday in Baton Rouge for the attorneys for each of the parties to continue to work through the contractual issues, he said.
The weekly meetings “really bring everything together well when we have everybody in the room to do approaches on the different stages,” McGoffin said.
He said the payment component of the repairs will also be addressed by all the parties in advance of planned mediation, which is scheduled to occur in September.
The attorneys involved have all agreed on two possible mediators, both of which have experience in construction contracting, McGoffin said.
“The importance of getting a mediation schedule by September was to make sure to get this thing done as soon as we can to mobilize, have the foundation restored and work on reconstruction of the facility,” the attorney said.
Carrie Stansbury, Cajun Coast executive director, said in a later interview that all things considered, she was happy with the progress made by McGoffin.
“According to Gary, things are moving quickly on a project of this magnitude,” she said. “It is not as fast as we would like, we would like it to be done tomorrow, but our goal is to be in by 2013, not 2014. But we are pleased with the progress, Gary has kept (everyone involved) on task and they are meeting regularly with the hopeful outcome being a firm plan to resolve this by October.”
In other business related to the welcome center, the commission expanded its agenda to approve a $122,621 payment to contractor Aegis Construction to clear two liens against the facility.
A $12,000 lien filed by Acoustic Specialties was recently released, McGoffin said.
A second lien by Crawford Electric is also expected to be released today following the board action Wednesday.
The second lien was for $106,000, but the actual disputed amount was much less, according to the attorney.
Both liens needed to be cleared before any repairs could begin, McGoffin said.