But, a closer look tells a much different story.
Built in 1957, the fire station now has cracks in the walls and floor, and the beams are shifting.
“A few years ago,” said Fire Chief Donald Meaux, “a company came in and did some foundation repairs. But that was just a band aid approach. Since Hurricane Katrina, many new cracks have appeared and the existing ones have gotten larger. The engineers have said that was probably due to erosion under the slab.”
“Because of the excessive problems and foundation flaws,” said Mayor Linda Hardee, “ we have had to take steps to address the seriousness and severity of this problem. We simply cannot let our firemen be put at risk in this building.”
After hiring structural engineers to assess the situation, their conclusions were that ‘the structure fell into the high importance category of being a significant risk should it be subjected to design speed winds for this area. The grade beams along the front of the structure show evidence of a significant amount of settlement. It is also noted that the pipe columns seemed to be undersized for their usage.’
Mayor Hardee said plans are currently being drawn up for a new fire station. The total cost is approximated at $895,000.
Capital Outlay, through the state bonding commission, approved $450,000 of the total with cash appropriations from the state legislature paying $145,000. The City will pay the remaining $300,000.
City engineers have also advised Kaplan to undertake the building of a new structure that will be able to withstand 120 MPH winds.
Chief Meaux also stated that another important factor that may have led to the deterioration of the foundation is that today’s equipment weighs more than those of the 50’s and 60’s.
“One fire truck today can weigh twice as much as one fifty years ago,” he said. “All this additional heavy equipment puts a burden on concrete that was not made to withstand such weight.”
The new building will have concrete upgrades to handle all the weight, along with enough bays to house all equipment under one roof.
The completely new structure will be built in the same location as the current one.
Before demolition, plans are to relocate the fire equipment to temporary housing on Hwy. 696, 2.2 miles from the present location.
“We have already spoken with the Property Insurance Association and this temporary change of address will not affect the city’s rating. They have cleared all our preliminary plans. This site also has a big enough storage area to house all the vehicles.”
When the present fire station was built 51 years ago, Paul Eleazar Sr. was the mayor of the city and Freddie Guidry was the Fire Chief.