Welcome center lifted -- Building sagged about 4.5 feet in 2012

MORGAN CITY, La. — Nearly 11 months to the date the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau Welcome and Interpretative Center building sagged about 4.5 feet, the center is now back to its original elevation.

Expert House Movers, the company contracted to lift the building, finished lifting the approximately 1,400-ton building Monday after beginning the lifting process on May 8.

The building sank June 14, 2012.

Workers have about one or two weeks of “finish work” on the building because they have to secure all the piling systems, said Bobby Fischer, project manager for Expert House Movers Inc.

Right now, workers are securing the pilings by bolting everything off and will then see if there is any welding to do on the pilings or structural frame of the building, he said.

After they remove the jacking system used to lift the building, they have to repair all the holes in the slab, Fischer said.

From there, they have to repair everything that was damaged due to the collapse and the elevation process, and then finish what was incomplete after the collapse happened, he said.

The company will also complete construction to the interior of the building, which includes walls, windows, heat and cooling systems, flooring, bathrooms and the elevator along with some cosmetic features to the building, Fischer said.

Fischer said Expert House Movers should complete work by August.

“We’re excited that the roof’s finally straight,” Cajun Coast Executive Director Carrie Stansbury said.

She is “thrilled” that the lift is complete and “eager” for the next phase of work to begin, Stansbury said.

Expert House Movers, which had been working to prepare the site for the lift since January, partnered with Brownie Companies to get the building ready to be lifted, Fischer said. Magnum Piering provided the push piers and engineering expertise for the lift, he said.

“We put together a team. Each brought its own specialty to it,” Fischer said.

Brownie Companies had a little stronger background in the geotechnical work involving the steel push piers and was brought because of its experience, Fischer said. Magnum Piering was brought in because it had done this type of elevation work before, he added.

Expert House Movers has lifted more than 15,000 buildings, anything from 5,000 tons to 500 pounds, Fischer said. “We were confident with our experience that we could get it done,” he said.

Cajun Coast is using the nearly $3 million in insurance money it received after the collapsed plus money allocated to finish the building that had not been spent due to the building collapse, Stansbury said.

Expert House Movers’s finish date could depend on how the next couple weeks of work go, Fischer said.

Once Expert House Movers completes work, Cajun Coast will add the “interpretative component” to the building, which includes adding panels on the back of the building that have information about the area’s wildlife and interior panels with “everything there is to see and do in St. Mary Parish, Stansbury said. Cajun Coast will add brochure racks inside the building, she said.

Cajun Coast is getting a federal grant to build the parking lot at the center, but they do not have a projected date of when the lot might be completed and when the center would open, Stansbury said.

There is a possibility the center could open before the parking lot is finished, though, she added. “Right now, we’re investigating temporary parking options,” she said.

June 14, 2012— The building sank about 4.5 feet in the ground about a month before the scheduled completion date.

June 27, 2012 — St. Mary Parish Tourist Commission hires attorney Gary McGoffin as a special legal representative to handle welcome center legal issues.

July 25, 2012 — Cajun Coast meets with involved parties to discuss building fixes.

Aug. 15, 2012 — Cajun Coast reaches general consensus that repairing the building would cost less than replacing it.

Oct. 11, 2012 — Building broken into and copper taken from air conditioning units.

Nov. 29, 2012 — Test piles driven at building site.

Dec. 6, 2012 — Contract with Expert House Movers approved to complete and reconstruct center.

Dec. 18, 2012 —Settlement of all claims related to repair of the foundation and completion of construction approved.

Jan. 9 — Lorrie Braus hired to manage Cajun Coast Phoenix, an entity created to oversee the rebuilding of the center; EHM begins selective demolition on the building.

March 27 — Process preparing to raise building halfway finished.

May 8 — EHM begins lifting the building.

May 13 — Lift completed.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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