THE SITUATION

When Hurricane Katrina pushed across the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, it struck particularly hard at Plaquemines Parish, south of the city of New Orleans. The storm caused massive damage and destroyed the jail. Congress quickly appropriated supplemental help for the region, allocating funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for design and construction of a new jail. The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office wanted to build a temporary jail as rapidly as possible, followed by a permanent, replacement jail facility. However, the FEMA funding application, review and approval process was extremely complex and threatened a timely completion of the project. Faced with an array of post-Hurricane issues to manage, the Sheriff’s Office sought assistance to navigate the technical and bureaucratic process and keep the project moving forward.

THE CHALLENGES

FEMA was challenged to manage the heavy volume of applications for assistance for the huge reconstruction effort that extended along a wide swath of the Gulf Coast. The parish needed to engage consultants and partners who could appropriately and accurately manage the required paperwork to quickly move the project forward. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and in an effort to quickly address the critical need for expedited construction, funding requests were submitted in the form of Project Worksheets. However, early in the planning process the actual cost of the projects were not known when worksheets were submitted to FEMA, thus creating some potential for delays in resolving the issue. FEMA initially approved construction of both a temporary and a new permanent jail facility.

THE SOLUTION

Plaquemines Parish sheriff realized he would need help in navigating these issues. He decided to hire an experienced firm that could assist him. “I felt it was crucial not only to bring on board a program manager who understood the challenges facing Plaquemines Parish, but also to include an architecture and engineering firm with extensive correctional-facility experience as a central part of the team,” the sheriff said. His first step was to engage a local New Orleans consulting firm as a program manager to begin conversations with FEMA. Immediately the consulting firm contacted L.R. Kimball to join the team because of L.R. Kimball’s solid reputation for developing jails. L.R. Kimball, working in tandem with the Parish, the State, FEMA, and the program manager, leveraged its project management expertise to identify an alternate solution. Their solution was centered on an expedited construction schedule for a single facility that would meet the Parish’s needs while saving FEMA and taxpayers significant money by building only one facility. It was critical to engage a firm that could understand the funding process and deliver targeted results in completing and providing the paperwork and technical information required to ensure the project received FEMA funding approval. Backed by its strong reputation for achieving results, L.R. Kimball quickly began working with the Parish to revise the Project Worksheet as needed. FEMA uses Project Worksheets to approve funding to local jurisdictions.

THE BUILDING DESIGN

While the original Project Worksheet reflected the plan to build a temporary facility and then a permanent jail, so much time had passed that work needed to begin as soon as possible on the permanent jail. L.R. Kimball, supported by the sheriff, asserted that FEMA fund a facility that satisfied the needs of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office—an innovative permanent structure built on a platform situated well above the flood plain to mitigate any future impacts resulting from high water events. It would utilize innovative design and construction components, including both windowed exterior wall and windowless interior jail cells to maximize use of square footage, and generous daylight coming from an end wall in the dayrooms with a view of the recreation yard. “The design of our new facility demanded solid and creative thinking,” the sheriff noted. “We ended up with a plan that saved us
money and time while helping ensure we could avoid or minimize future weather-related damage.”

THE FUNDING

L.R. Kimball’s design team, supported by vice president David Rispoli, P.E., PMP, succeeded in rewriting the Project Worksheet, gaining approval from FEMA to more than double the funding and winning FEMA’s consent to build one facility instead of a sequence of two buildings. With his understanding of federal funding, L.R. Kimball Vice President for Federal Programs Adam Henger also played a key role in coordinating and assisting with the project’s applications for funding.

THE RESULTS

L.R. Kimball helped the sheriff push the project forward, releasing it from a quagmire. The team made the right connections at FEMA, worked with FEMA representatives to ensure the correct documentation was completed, and submitted multiple drawings. As a result of their efforts, L.R. Kimball played a vital role in helping to secure a FEMA allocation of more than $89 million for the project according to the most recent Project Worksheet. L.R. Kimball continues to provide support and documentation for additional FEMA allocations. L.R. Kimball’s achievements during the course of this project to date included:

  • Designing and engineering a correctional facility to meet the sheriff’s needs and offer protection against future weather-related incidents
  • Incorporating money-saving design and construction techniques
  • Reducing future maintenance and repair costs for the jail
  • Assisting the project team and FEMA to fund a single, permanent jail
  • Helping to gain a FEMA allocation of more than $89 million for the project after rewriting the Project Worksheet

“This project is advancing because of the partnerships we’ve formed,” said Henger. “A law-enforcement agency headed by an elected official must trust you and feel that you have the skills necessary to put together one of these complex facilities, and we’ve gained that trust in Plaquemines Parish.”