(10/01/20) ALEXANDRIA, La. — The process of rebuilding and repairing storm-damaged facilities at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center is underway.
A tornado on April 22 caused much of the damage. Then Hurricane Laura brought more problems in August.
“It has been a process to get to this point,” said Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region.
The State Office of Risk Management estimates total damage at $6.5 million. Smith said the facilities and equipment were insured.
Bids will be solicited in the next two weeks for demolition of buildings that have to be replaced, Smith said, including much of the Charles DeWitt Livestock Show Facility, the foundation seed facility, equipment sheds and a greenhouse.
Facility replacement will occur through bid packages managed by the State Office of Facilities Planning and Control under the Division of Administration. An architectural firm has to be chosen by the State Architectural Selection Board, and an architect will draw up plans and specifications for bids, with estimated completion in 12 to 18 months.
Buildings to be repaired include the weed science building, a maintenance shop, agronomy storage and the feed mill. Smith said work should begin in early 2021 and be completed within six to eight months. Bid packages for the repair work will be designed and managed by the AgCenter Facilities Planning office.
The research center’s administration and extension office was spared by the tornado, but Hurricane Laura’s 80-mile-per-hour winds damaged the roof along with the roofs of staff residences that will require repairs, Smith said.
Equipment also was heavily damaged by the tornado. A combine used to harvest research plots was totaled by the tornado, but a replacement combine was obtained in time for harvest, Smith said.
Meanwhile, research has continued at the station. Recent rains from Tropical Storm Beta interfered with soybean and cotton harvest; however, it is hoped that research plots will be minimally affected.
“We are also working to identify other areas to accommodate events during the various phases of our rebuild,” Smith said.“We are working to finalize an agreement with the City of Alexandria to host meetings and educational programs at several city-owned facilities.”
The Central District Livestock Show will be held at two locations: the State Evacuation Shelter next to Dean Lee and the Vernon Parish Fairgrounds. Also, a beef and forage field day is expected to be held at Dean Lee in the spring.
The heavily damaged DeWitt Livestock Facility adjacent to the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria is expected to be replaced after it was damaged by a tornado on the night of April 22, 2020. Photo by Tara Smith/LSU AgCenter
One of four equipment sheds destroyed by the tornado on April 22, 2020, at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria. Photo by Tara Smith/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter agents Blair Hebert, of Iberia Parish, at left, and Todd Fontenot, of Evangeline Parish, repair fences at the AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center following a tornado on April 22, 2020. Photo by Tara Smith/LSU AgCenter
Workers at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center salvage farm equipment in a shed that was demolished by a tornado on April 22, 2020. Photo by Tara Smith/LSU AgCenter