Parish purchases land across from courthouse for EOC, DMV

April 08, 2010 at 1:27 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

A “governmental campus” that will include a new Emergency Operations Center, climate-controlled records storage building and DMV will be built across from the courthouse after the Parish Council agreed to purchase 2.3 acres of land.

The property, which is between Madere’s Garage and the parish’s Planning and Zoning Department, sits on some of the highest land in the area at an elevation of 14 feet, according to EOC director Scott Whelchel.

The emergency center, which will be 13,000 square feet, has an estimated cost of $3.9 million, but the parish has already received $1 million in grants for the project.

The parish received $151,831 from the state to build a new driver’s license bureau, which is currently located in the rear of the courthouse, and the records storage building will hold files that are now kept on the third floor of the courthouse.

The land to house the buildings will cost the parish around $395,000.

While a study commissioned by the EOC did say that the best location for the new center was adjacent to the courthouse, the St. Charles Parish School Board decided against donating the property because of future needs.

Another possibility for the new center was land along Sugarland Parkway that has been donated to the parish by the Dufresne family. Sheriff Greg Champagne is currently constructing a new Sheriff’s Office on that land and the parish also hopes to build a community center there.

Whelchel said that while the land is centrally located, transportation hazards on I-310 and the railroad that runs in front of the property could present problems for emergency responders. Whelchel added that it is beneficial for the operations center to be built close to the courthouse.

“Then you would have two large, robust facilities, with office space, sleeping and restrooms near each other in case of an emergency,” he said.

Councilman Paul Hogan agreed.

“The courthouse is the seat of our government, and the emergency operations center needs to be nearby,” he said. “Anytime you have a chance to purchase land near the seat of government, you should do it.”

Another plus to being located across from the courthouse is the access to the levee. Because of the recently completed paved path, vehicles could use the levee if roads were blocked.

Whelchel said the 2.3 acres would also allow for 172 parking spots, which would help with the overflow from the courthouse.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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