A day after what was to be the Cajun Coast Visitors Center sank a few feet into the swampy ground beneath it, explanations of the cause of the sinkage are few, hopes are damaged, and criticism from citizens is abundant on internet forums.
The project manager for Aegis Construction refused to give his name to The Daily Review and only said that the sinkage that occurred Thursday morning was the result of an “apparent design failure.” Later that afternoon, his only comment to reporters was to “keep your distance, keep your distance.”
This morning, architect Russell Washer of Baton Rouge architecture firm Washer Hill Lipbscomb Cabaniss said that he could not yet say much publicly.
“We hate the ‘no comment’ stuff, but right now we’re in that mode,” Washer said.
He did not want to say anything about a cause of the sinkage.
“We don’t want to do that because we want to do an objective evaluation,” he said.
Washer visited the scene yesterday, but offered no comment until a telephone call this morning.
Engineers visited the scene this morning, but, Washer said, weeks could pass before a determination is made of the cause.
Washer was the only party involved in the construction willing to give any statement this morning. Calls to both Aegis Construction and to structural engineering firm Ragland, Alderman & Associates were not returned this morning by press time.
St. Mary Parish president Paul Naquin visited the site early Thursday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a big set-back for us,” he said.
“We’re going to rebuild something somewhere. It’ll probably be on the same site. Either the engineer, the architect or the cement company, someone of those three messed up,” Naquin said.
Just two days before, Naquin was one of several parish leaders to tour the building, which was weeks away from a schedule completion.
Parish economic development director Frank Fink was with Naquin for the visit.
“I don’t think you can salvage this,” he said. “You have to start over.”
Aegis, based in LaPlace near where it does most of its work, also did the work on the new multipurpose facility at Wyandotte Elementary School, according to the firm’s website.
Carrie Stansbury, executive director of Cajun Coast Visitor Center, was preoccupied with the situation, and was seen crying on television coverage after the project to which she has dedicated herself for years suffered such a drastic setback.
Meanwhile, in cyberspace, reader commentary on the Facebook fan page of The Daily Review was many times higher than on normal postings, with many of the comments expressing the sentiment that the construction of the building in that location was a mistake, and some comments critical of the money spent on the building at all, regardless of location.