Rebuilding of tornado-damaged AgCenter facilities to begin soon

(11/01/21) ALEXANDRIA, La. — The process of rebuilding LSU AgCenter facilities destroyed by a tornado last year is set to begin soon.

The tornado, which struck near Alexandria in April 2020, caused extensive damage to several buildings at the AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center.

Demolition of the damaged buildings has been completed, and bids for construction work will be sought in early 2022. Rebuilding is expected to take about 14 months.

“Things are moving along,” said Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region. “It’s certainly a lengthy process, but the AgCenter is fully committed to bringing these facilities back.”

Buildings that were considered a total loss and that will be completely rebuilt include the DeWitt Livestock Show Facility, the foundation seed and laboratory building, equipment barns and a greenhouse.

Repairs also will be made to a chemical storage shed, an agronomy shed, a machine shop and a feed mill. Those projects will start in the next few weeks.

Smith said the AgCenter has benefitted from community support since the tornado hit.

“One thing that has helped is a cooperative agreement we have in place with the City of Alexandria,” she said. “We’ve been able to move some 4-H and other AgCenter programs to the city’s Food Education Center.”

The Vernon Parish Fairgrounds has stepped up to provide space for the district livestock show that’s usually held at the DeWitt facility each February. And the Rapides Parish Fair board, which oversees the fairgrounds adjacent to Dean Lee, has made storage space available for AgCenter equipment.

It is important to get everything back up and running, Smith said. The DeWitt facility played host to numerous local, regional and statewide AgCenter events, and the other damaged buildings were a critical component of Dean Lee’s diverse research program.

There is a silver lining to the situation, Smith noted. When the new foundation seed and lab building is constructed, it will feature more lab space than the previous facility.

“Now we have opportunity to maximize the area that’s coming back online for the benefit of the scientists and, ultimately, the stakeholders,” she said.

Damaged storage shed.

An equipment storage shed lies in shambles at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center following an April 2020 tornado. LSU AgCenter file photo

DeWitt Livestock Show Facility building.

The DeWitt Livestock Show Facility was damaged in an April 2020 tornado. It, along with other nearby LSU AgCenter facilities, is set to be rebuilt soon. LSU AgCenter file photo

10/29/2021 3:44:13 PM
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