- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

WESTWEGO, La. (AP) - Almost four years after the federal government agreed to provide $3.6 million to pay for a new Westwego City Hall, the City Council has voted to seek construction bids from contractors.

NOLA.comThe Times-Picayune reported (http://bit.ly/Pof7mj) city officials envision a 10,400-square-foot building on Fourth Street at Central Avenue, replacing the current building at 419 Avenue A.

City Hall is so prone to flooding that a drain is installed in the floor, hidden beneath the stage on which the City Council meets monthly, Mayor Johnny Shaddinger said. And the roof leaks, too.

The money will be provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The funding’s in place to proceed with this,” Shaddinger said. “We’re excited.”

Jimmy Papia of Meyers Engineers Ltd., a Mandeville company working for the city, told the council that before seeking bids Westwego must share its plans with the state Department of Transportation and Development because the building fronts a state highway.

He said the plans also must be submitted for approval to Westwego’s building officials and the state fire marshal.

“You’re going to have one heck of a great building,” Papia said.

Officials have wanted a new City Hall for more than 20 years. The city already owns the Fourth Street site, where a gasoline station formerly operated.

A year ago, the council told Meyers Engineers to begin drawing up plans, with hopes of finishing construction by October 2014. That was based on the projected award construction contract by May 2013.

Now, Shaddinger said, city officials expect construction to be completed in spring 2015 if a contract is awarded in April.

Shaddinger blamed delays on changeover of the council after the 2013 elections, which led to some changes to the plans.

He was one of four city officials who traveled to Washington in 2010 to argue before federal arbitration judges that FEMA should pay for a new City Hall.

After Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, Westwego and FEMA debated for years whether the city would get federal money to build a replacement City Hall at a location it chooses.

FEMA wanted to pay about $737,000 to renovate the existing building. The arbitration judges sided with Westwego, but the project languished for years.

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