Monday, January 14, 2008

FEMA to give college $2.2 million

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pledged $2.2 million to replace the ruined contents of Louisiana Technical College's Slidell campus, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina.

The money will go toward replacing furniture and equipment for the college's culinary, nursing, welding, automotive, drafting and computer technology programs. The items were destroyed after the storm inundated the campus off Canulette Road with more than 7 feet of water.

Steve Zeringue, senior compliance officer for the college, said the money will be "of great benefit" to the school.

The residents of St. Tammany Parish need all the equipment necessary to train for job opportunities," he said. "FEMA has been very cooperative. They've done a good job addressing our needs."

Sending a team to the inundated campus after the storm, FEMA initially estimated the damage to be $160,000, Zeringue said. After school officials provided a more detailed list of the furniture, computers and technical equipment destroyed in the storm, FEMA came back with the revised cost of $2.2 million.

The school will relocate north of Lacombe to a consolidated educational campus that will include Delgado Community College, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of New Orleans, as well as an advanced studies high school.

St. Tammany Parish will finance construction of the colleges through a bond issue and repay the debt through lease payments from the universities, which will be given ownership of the buildings once they are paid off, officials have said.

With plans to open the campus in two years, parish officials are waiting for final approval from the Legislature to start construction, said parish spokeswoman Suzanne Parsons Stymiest.

Rough estimates have the construction costing $30 million.

"It may take three (years) but this is a project that (Parish President) Kevin (Davis) is fully committed on, and he is pressing everyone to move forward as quickly as we can," she said.