Welcome center to open in May

From left, Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau board members Stan Robison, Kim Walden, Dale Rogers and Kristy Toups talk during Wednesday’s board meeting at the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce building in Morgan City.
(The Daily Review Photo by Zachary Fitzgerald)

The Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau board set the tentative grand opening date for its roughly $4 million welcome and interpretative center as May 22, from 4 to 7 p.m., nearly two years after the building dropped about 4.5 feet.
The board set the tentative opening date Wednesday during a meeting at the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce building in Morgan City.
Cajun Coast Executive Director Carrie Stansbury said the projected opening of the center is “surreal because it’s taken so long for it to happen.”
Stansbury expects to see more visitors to the new welcome center in Morgan City than it currently does at its center in Patterson, she said. “We’re excited about the future. When we get in the building is when the reality really will set in,” she said.
On June 14, 2012, the building sagged about 4.5 feet a month before its scheduled completion date. In May 2013, the building was lifted by Expert House Movers back to its original height.
The tentative hours for the welcome center would be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cajun Coast is looking for volunteers to work in four-hour shifts at the welcome center in addition to hiring one full-time and two part-time travel counselors to let visitors know what there is to see in St. Mary Parish, Stansbury said. “The more time they spend with our travel counselors, the more invested they are in the community and the more likely they are to spend money in the parish,” Stansbury said.
Board Chairwoman Kim Walden said, “We’ll see how things progress. We’ll see about a certificate of occupancy, and hopefully a plan for permanent parking. And we’ll know that probably by next month.”
Phoenix-Cajun Coast Manager Lorrie Braus said 96 percent of the contract with Expert House Movers has been paid. The handicap accessibility parking is temporary just so the center can go ahead and open before the center is complete, Braus said. The contractor expects to complete the floor of the building in three more days, she said.
Stansbury said, “Once the floors are complete, I’m hoping we can get the security system in. Once that’s online, then I thought we could bring in the furniture.” The board plans to start moving furniture in the new welcome center April 1.
Board member Dale Rogers said the board needs to go through the welcome center with a “punch list” to make sure all the work paid for has been completed.
Stansbury talked with an Expert House Movers official and said temporary access parking will be finished by the end of March. Most of the work to complete the building and temporary access parking lot is expected to be finished this week, Stansbury said. Therefore, the contractor can spend the month of March completing the “punch out list,” she said.
The security system for the building will have to be run wirelessly, and the board approved paying for the security system at a cost of $1,904 plus a three-year contract of $53.90 per month for monitoring charges. Those charges include a cell tower rental fee, unlimited warranty, and a mobile phone app to be able to monitor the building.
The board also approved constructing a sign at a cost not to exceed $3,000 for a 36-foot-by-24-foot cast bronze sign with raised text. The board accepted a Nano’s Painting and Home Services bid of $12,600 to fix the concrete around the welcome center and fill in the holes made to lift the building.
Elite Designs in Morgan City will fabricate and install the wall decal inside the building at a cost of $2,610 after the board approved the expense Wednesday. The brochure rack for the center was approved at a cost of $10,650 from Robichaux Manufacturing in Berwick. The brochure rack will take about five weeks to complete, Stansbury said.
The board also allocated up to $15,000 for computers for the new welcome center.

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