With construction set to move forward with the grandstands and upgrades at W.W. Williams Memorial Stadium at Minden High School, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is questioning certain aspects of the project.

In an October email, FEMA representatives questioned the cost effectiveness of alterations to plans for construction of a separate building for concessions and restrooms. They sent a list of questions to architect Yeager, Watson and Associates asking for two opinions of probable cost, one for replacement of the grandstands as they were originally and another one for the proposed alterations and new construction. Architect Perry Watson did not submit an opinion for cost of replacement to current codes.

“We did not do that cost projection on the basis of bringing replacement facilities up to current code, but to only get them above the flood plain,” he said in his response.

Webster Parish School Board Maintenance Supervisor Buster Flowers said the project is in mitigation. Kurt Pickering, FEMA media relations manager, said mitigation is “a feasible, cost effective measure the applicant can incorporate into the damaged facility during the repair process that will lessen or prevent the same damages in a future disaster event. An example would be elevating a structure above the base flood elevation.

“As the stadium is a replacement project, there is no additional mitigation included in the project worksheet,” he continued.
In the email, FEMA representatives said the idea is to find a way to keep the cost of reimbursement from being capped.

“Since receiving this latest information, FEMA Public Assistance has been seeking a way to keep this project at actual cost and avoid a capped improvement project,” FEMA officials said.

They said the board would have to bid the concession stands and restrooms, the raising of the fields and other aspects of the project separately from the grandstands.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said it is not unusual for FEMA to question everything.

“What they want is assurances that the work was done under the agreement,” he said. “They ask for all kinds of information from the people who actually did the work, from the architect, from us, to make sure we’re doing what we say we’re going to do.”
According to FEMA documentation, payment is made based on the actual cost once the project is completed.

“FEMA will continue to monitor the recovery progress to ensure the timely delivery of eligible assistance and compliance with the law and regulations,” Pickering said.

The project has not yet been formally approved, but it is under review to address the concerns they had; however, once those answers are received, the process should begin to move along quickly.

“After FEMA Environmental and Historic Preservation has approved the project, we expect the remaining project approvals to be completed quickly,” Pickering said.

The board has already received roughly $140,000 in reimbursement from FEMA for work done, such as the demolition of the original grandstands.

In the email, other questions regarded the change of location of the concession stand and restroom facilities to the south end of the stadium, why the board elected to use a different foundation system, and the additional construction of a storage building and ticket booth, entrance gate and marquee structure and raising the grade and adjustment of the football field.

The original grandstands housed the restrooms and concessions underneath the bleachers, and the foundation was concrete piers on spread footings. The new foundation system will be supported on concrete drilled shafts.

Watson’s response is a detailed outline of what will be done from the beginning of construction to building codes that must be met.

Bids for the entire project were awarded Monday, Dec. 5, to Walker Construction in Ruston for roughly $2.9 million.

Flowers said construction may begin as soon as next week to meet a target completion date of August 2017.

“We have a conference next week and we hope equipment will start moving in after that conference,” he said.