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State approves $50 million to restart Calcasieu school repairs

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 11:40 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The Louisiana State Bond Commission has approved $50 million in revenue bonds to help the Calcasieu Parish School Board resume construction on schools damaged by Hurricanes Laura and Delta, according to the Louisiana Treasury Department.

“A year after two devastating hurricanes, Calcasieu Parish is struggling to rebuild because FEMA works at the pace of a snail. Students are trying to learn in schools with leaky roofs. This bond issue will allow repairs on schools to resume,” State Treasurer John M. Schroder said. “Meanwhile, I hope our federal delegation can successfully convince FEMA to accelerate the recovery from the 2020 hurricanes. We cannot forget southwest Louisiana.”

Keiland Construction is one of the general contractors with school repair jobs.

Chief Operations Officer Carly Leonards says such work stoppages cause financial strain.

“We’re a general contractor here in Lake Charles, and of course we’ve got subs on our jobs that are calling us, vendors that are calling us,” Leonards said. “Of course, they’re concerned, especially those that have, potentially, have numerous jobs like us - as to the financial strain that may put just with the unknown.”

Leonards is happy to hear about the emergency funding, but she knows it’s not enough to finish the jobs.

“We’re understanding that those funds are going to be utilized over approximately a 60-day period,” Leonards said. “And so, we know that it’s short-term funding. So, our concern, of course, is what happens after that time.”

Mack Dellafosse and his colleagues on the school board are anxious to get work to resume.

“Well, I’m elated, and we desperately needed the additional funding,” Dellafosse said. “So, for me, and I know our board, we approved it unanimously. So, we’re ecstatic because we really want to get back started. However, we can’t get started until the money is in the bank.”

Dellafosse hopes at least part of the bond money will be available in a week or two. And he hopes citizens will encourage federal elected officials to push for fast funding.

“We’re at a point where we need FEMA to speed things up, and they haven’t been very gracious in getting us the funding that we need,” Delafosse said.

Construction on schools in Calcasieu Parish was halted recently due to delays in FEMA reimbursement.

FEMA says the agency and the school board have had to resolve some issues about documentation for work performed.

FEMA officials say they hope to reach resolution and submit the four projects back to the school board for review by Friday, September 24.

Currently, the CPSB has used $40 million in insurance proceeds, $20 million in School Board General Fund money, and $100 million in bond proceeds to begin the initial repairs.

To date, FEMA has remitted $116,000 of the School Board’s approximately $300 million in reimbursement requests.

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