A tale of two DPW buildings

Leslie D. Rose @DvilleNewsie
Parish President-elect and Donaldsonville native, Kenny Matassa speaks at the Ascension West DPW opening.

     DONALDSONVILLE – It was quite the exciting week for Dept. of Public Works employees in Donaldsonville, as both the city and Parish welcomed new DPW buildings on Thibaut Drive, in a matter of just two days. 

     Totaling $480,669, the Donaldsonville DPW project began in Jan. 2011 with engineering starting in March 2012 and substantial completion in Nov. 2014. 

     Funding for the project came by way of the one million dollars Donaldsonville received in CDBG disaster recovery funds. Additionally, the city utilized funds for improvements to its sewer system. It was in the plans to use a portion of the funds for upgrades to Lemann Memorial Donaldsonville Community Center, but the budget fell short of the project’s implementation. 

     At the building’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 2, Mayor Leroy Sullivan said that the decision to choose to spend the remaining money, after sewer upgrades, solely on the DPW building was tough, but necessary. 

     “The bids we received on our planned projects were outrageous, so people might look and say ‘that building cost almost a half a million dollars’ and well, yeah, it did, but we’re just thankful that we have it,” Sullivan said. 

     Although it came with a hefty price tag, Sullivan said that residents would see its benefits. As he recalled tortuous memories of Hurricane Gustav, and the fear that a storm was coming to Donaldsonville just recently, he said he is hopeful that the new building will provide the necessary resources for the city to be better prepared for natural disasters.

      “We had to do some sand-bagging and we didn’t have a facility to get the crew out of the elements to even load the sandbags,” Sullivan said. “So now, we have a facility and we will be better able to accommodate the people in the City of Donaldsonville.” 

     Just next door to city’s new facility is what Sullivan jokingly referred to as the Taj Mahal of DPW buildings – a joke that would last two days as Ascension Parish hosted a ribbon cutting for its West DPW building on Dec. 3.  

     With a price of $1.3 million, the Parish DPW building boasts several office spaces, a large warehouse complete with safety equipment, bathrooms with showers, a concrete parking lot and a gravel yard. 

     According to Parish officials, the need for a new building for West public works employees was necessary due to the outdated conditions of their previous workspace. 

     “We all got together and worked to finally build this building,” said Oliver Joseph, District 1 Parish councilman. “[District 2] Councilman [Kent] Schexnaydre and I worked really hard to get this building here, and I know that the employees will enjoy this building.”

     Schexnaydre recalled a visit to the previous DPW building when approximately five inches of water entered the facility after a heavy rain.

     “Everyone wanted to do something and we finally found the right thing to do,” Schexnaydre said. “When the money became available, we went through about five or six scenarios, and when it came down to a land swap, and a fire station and an opportunity to get a grant and still being over budget, [Tommy Martinez] stepped in and paid the difference. We got this magnificent building which is what our workers deserve – the people of the Parish deserve, and we can now service people in the proper manner.” 

     Among current Parish and city officials, current Gonzales councilman and Ascension Parish President-elect, Kenny Matassa – a Donaldsonville native – also attended the ceremony. 

     “This is a great day in the City of Donaldsonville, and this is a long time coming and I know [everyone] worked very hard on this facility,” Matassa said. “It’s a beautiful facility – it’s way over-due.” 

     Matassa referenced his long-standing rapport with Sullivan and said that he intends to have a positive working relationship with him. 

     “We have one parish called Ascension Parish and this [Donaldsonville] is a part of it,” Matassa said. 

     A tale of two DPW buildings in one community, indeed, but both are products of Parish and city cooperation, according to Sandra Gunner – director of intergovernmental affairs and community development for the office of community development and disaster recovery. 

     “We worked very hard to develop projects that were instrumental in the recovery of the Parish and the different municipalities – [the Parish] has had some magnificent projects, and it’s good that they’re all coming into fruition at this time,” Gunner said.