Reeves, selectmen cut ribbon for community center

Staff Report
Mayor Ed Reeves, Jr. and the Plaquemine Board of Selectmen cut the ribbon on the new Community Center.

Mayor Ed Reeves, Jr. and the Plaquemine Board of Selectmen held the ribbon-cutting for the new Plaquemine Community Center on Oct. 7, with about 150 people attending and touring the facility.

Reeves made remarks, providing a brief history of the building, noting his push to get the facility designed and constructed and his consistent urging that local firms be used in construction. He listed numerous local firms that were involved in the project. Reeves also thanked Dow Chemical Co. for its $50,000 grant to the project for the kitchen equipment.

Dow Chemical Co. made a $50,000 grant to the project for the kitchen equipment.

“All of this would not have been possible without the vision of the late Mayor Mark A. 'Tony' Gulotta, who led the creation of our award-winning Bayou Waterfront Park; and also had the foresight to purchase the rusted shell of a building behind me.

It was originally a factory of the Nadler Foundry and Machinery Co. The company was an important part of Plaquemine’s economy from 1888 until the late 1900s. It was very widely known for machining parts for sugarcane processing equipment, tanks for the petrochemical industry and for its famous two-cylinder engine. The company was first run by Henry Nadler and after his death in 1920 by subsequent members of the Nadler family until it was closed in 2000.

An interesting story is told about Henry Nadler wanting to leave Plaquemine after a storm blew down the shop. He ended up meeting with a local banker who offered to loan him the money to rebuild, and told Henry that he could pay the loan back as he had money. It is said that Henry decided that if that was the generous spirit of the people of Plaquemine, he wanted to stay and he did. I can also vouch for the wonderful and generous spirit of our community!

The building was originally a factory of the Nadler Foundry and Machinery Co.

The factory building sat idle for many years, until it was purchased by the City, under the administration of Mayor Gulotta, in 2013. Tony always wanted to have a Community Center built there, and many residents also wanted a new community center.

One of my top priorities when I took office as Mayor in 2017 was to make the Community Center a reality. It took us 3 years, but it has finally come to fruition.

As you can see, the factory was a huge building, but it was also just an old, rusted steel shell. I wanted to make sure that the City preserved the history of the Nadler Foundry by keeping as much of the original building as possible. But we had a lot of work to do to make it a modern, functional facility for our residents.

The construction was done in three phases –

• the covered outdoor pavilion, which cost $345,500;

• the kitchen, bathroom and lobby area, which cost just over 1 million dollars,

• and the final phase was the big open space and stage area of the Community Center, which cost $1.1 million.

The total cost of the entire facility, with the pavilion and Community Center, was $2.52 million.

The original steel structure of the factory remains in tact, but the building has new metal wall and roof panels, as well as stucco at the entrances and brick along the wall base to match the Waterfront Park pavilion. And it required all new plumbing, electrical wiring, and concrete floors.

In the pavilion, the existing clearstory windows remain with new glass.  The new kitchen features serving counters to both the pavilion and the community center, and we added a covered cooking area to the back of the building. 

The original overhead cranes, hoists and catwalks from the factory remain in both the pavilion and community center as a nod to the Nadler Foundry history.  On the pavilion side, large fans were added for air circulation.  In the community center, we included a huge stage with stage lighting, a dressing room off of the stage, storage for tables and chairs and a roll up door that will allow for renters to bring in any equipment or furnishings. 

We completed the pavilion in 2018, and it has already been used for numerous outdoor events, from festivals, to concerts to cornhole tournaments. I have proposed that the pavilion section of the building be named the Henry Nadler Building in honor of Nadler Foundry, and the Board of Selectmen will make a decision on that in the coming months. The Community Center section will be called the City of Plaquemine Community Center.

The Community Center includes 15,000 square feet of space and will accommodate up to 641 people. We have been slammed with calls for rentals of the new Community Center, so we know this facility will stay booked most weekends of the year. Besides all of the private events that will be held here, we also envision holding many community events here. It also gives us the capacity, with the Waterfront Park, to hold bigger events that will draw people to our beautiful city.

Now I want to give thanks to those who also had important roles in this tremendous project for our city. First, thank you to the Board of Selectmen who are seated here today for supporting the funding for this project. As your name is called, please stand to be recognized: Selectman Oscar Mellion, Selectman Lin Rivet, Selectman Timmy Martinez, Selectman Jimmie Randle, Selectman Russell Gerace, and our newest member, Selectwoman Chris Stassi. I also want to thank the late Selectman Ralph Stassi and retired Selectman Mickey Rivet for their support.

Next, I want to thank the Dow Chemical Co for its support. Dow donated $50,000 to this project, which was used to purchase some of our high-quality commercial kitchen equipment. Dow has been a great neighbor and partner to the City of Plaquemine for many years, and donated to the construction of the Waterfront Park in the past. We thank them.

I made it clear from the beginning that I wanted the City to use as much local talent as possible in the construction of this facility. We are very fortunate that we were able to secure the services of Plaquemine architect Brad Guerin and his firm, Fusion Architecture, for the design of the building. And we were also fortunate that local contractor Edward Earl Comeaux and his firm, Comeaux Brothers Construction, was the low bidder for the project. Edward Earl worked with us hand in hand every step of the way and used local sub-contractors, including:

Westside Metal – Metal Building Subcontractor;

Barker Brothers – Plumbing;

Air Control Engineering – A/C and heat system;

Rocky’s Construction / Mark Comeaux – Electrical;

Basin River – Electrical Supplier;

Blanchard’s Building Material – Building Supplies;

Martinez Welding – Signage and handrails;

Cayards – Kitchen Equipment;

Just Johns – portable restrooms;

Thibodeaux Glass – Window Glazing; and

United Rental – Equipment Rental.

We thank all of them for their hard work.

In addition, we owe a huge thank you to Fire Marshal Butch Browning for working with the City of Plaquemine to open this facility in phases.

Finally, our biggest thanks go to the residents of Plaquemine. Your tax dollars funded this tremendous facility for our city, and I know all our residents will enjoy the benefits of this facility for many years to come.”

The City is now accepting bookings for the new Community Center by calling the Mayor’s Office at 225.687.3116.