(11/25/20) ALEXANDRIA, La. — When a tornado struck near Alexandria in April, several buildings at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center were destroyed.
The AgCenter is still cleaning up the wreckage and making plans for rebuilding. In the meantime, AgCenter personnel will be able to use the Food Education Center and other city-owned facilities under a recently approved cooperative endeavor agreement with the City of Alexandria.
“Our partners with the City of Alexandria have been extremely great to work with, and we are looking forward to conducting programming in closer proximity to our clientele in Alexandria and the surrounding area,” said Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region. “The additional meeting and programming space will allow us to continue many of our outreach efforts and initiatives while we are rebuilding.”
The AgCenter and city officials had already been discussing the possibility of sharing facilities prior to the April 22 tornado, which seriously damaged the DeWitt Livestock Show Facility as well as equipment sheds and other structures at the station. The DeWitt facility has been deemed a total loss; it will be torn down and replaced.
“We are very excited about the opportunities this cooperative endeavor agreement creates,” said Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey W. Hall. “We believe this will promote greater participation by Alexandria residents for the many educational programs presented by the LSU AgCenter. And the AgCenter staff will have access to our world-class food preparation center as well as a variety of meeting centers, so it really is a win-win situation for the AgCenter and for our residents.”
Demolition contracts for damaged AgCenter buildings that will be rebuilt were bid out earlier this month, Smith said. Construction is expected to start mid-2021.
While many AgCenter programs are still being conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Smith is optimistic that some in-person events will resume in 2021. If and when that happens, she said, the partnership with the city will be an asset.
“We look forward to maximizing use of the facilities, including a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen space,” Smith said. “The partnership will serve to enhance the nutrition and 4-H programming efforts already in place in Rapides Parish and surrounding areas as well as allow room for growth in the areas of commercial horticultural and urban agriculture initiatives.”
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture