flooded city hall 3

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the demolition of the flooded Denham Springs City Hall, Mayor Gerard Landry announced Wednesday. The Lamm Street site will be tuned into green space with a pavilion, he said.

There’s this funny saying that gets uttered a lot around the turn of the calendar – “New Year, New Me!”   

Especially with the functionality of social media, which makes it so easy to simply toss the phrase out there as a fate accompli. Most folks believe that each advancement of the last few digits gives them a chance to wipe the slate clean and change themselves – hopefully, for the better – inside the new 365-day compartment.

For the rest it’s a one-off joke to toss around, with some going so far as to say the complete opposite – citing habitual behavior that isn’t good or bad, just who they are as a person.

However, in 2019 two of Livingston Parish’s municipalities seem to be taking the phrase to heart.

At their final official meeting before the New Year, the Walker City Council adopted measures to begin planning for advancements to their centerpiece park system, Sydney Hutchinson, as well as budgetary measures for a new City Hall.

But wait, there’s more! At a meeting of the Livingston Parish Republican Women at Big Mike’s this past Wednesday, Mayor Gerard Landry made some comments about some new commercial development coming to Denham Springs – including CubeSmart Self-Store at Range and Rushing (the Marathon Oil will be torn down); a new development with an Italian restaurant behind Sarita’s at Bass Pro; and, finally, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (a discount retailer), coming to Livingston Square.

Ollie’s was the only “new’”announcement at the meeting, but Landry decided to bring some more fireworks the day everyone returned to work from the New Year’s holiday. Apparently, FEMA has given the city full clearance to demolish the old City Hall, the old fire chief’s building, and two other city buildings deemed “substantially damaged.”

Old City Hall will become green space with a pavilion, similar to Train Station Park, and the city will purchase the Capital One building and begin renovations.

Every time FEMA gives clearance for any entity to move forward with a project – whether that be demolition, renovation, elevation … anything – it’s a win for both that governmental entity, and the people. Readers and followers of the Livingston Parish News have commented for years regarding the state of those properties in limbo, awaiting FEMA designation. Yes, it has been a rough two years in Livingston Parish as buildings have sat as a staunch reminder of the flood, both schools and municipal facilities.

But the dominoes are starting to fall. Late in the summer, the School Board got the call that its patience – and tenacity – paid off.

Three of the hardest hit schools were scheduled for demolition, the school system would be reimbursed for a huge portion of the cost, and life would move. Now, the City of Denham Springs has received similar news and the municipality gets to continue its move in the post-flood direction.

None of that was easy, either.

Public outcry may not have been fierce, but it was consistent in phone calls and social media posts. The disgruntled attitudes were understandable, as well – longtime citizens of the area wanted to know why movement wasn’t happening and, when the fiduciary responsibility was explained to them, questioned why the city or School Board didn’t come out-of-pocket and simply move on.

Future financial security was the rallying cry and it’s going to pay. A freshly renovated City Hall that isn’t in a flood zone! New, state-of-the-art schools and a new campus for vocational services for Denham Springs High School!

There were tangible benefits to waiting, many of which didn’t come to light until the 12th hour, but the city, and the parish, made it to the finish line.

No one wanted to look at those flooded and gutted buildings any longer than necessary, but perhaps we shouldn’t focus on local involvement in the process.

Maybe the process itself is broken?

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