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Editor/Consulting Writer

A group of Opelousas preservationists seeking to save a 238-year-old-downtown building from proposed demolition has been given 90 days by the Board of Aldermen to develop a plan for preserving the historic landmark that sits at the intersection of East Grolee and Main streets.

City code enforcement director Lance Ned told the Board of Aldermen again Tuesday night that the city-owned structure known as the Sandoz building,represents a structural hazard and needs to be torn down.

Ned added during the Tuesday meeting that it could cost the city as much as $100,000 to raze the brick building which features a collapsed roof.

In order to help with the demolition costs, the Opelousas Downtown Development District agreed last month to contribute $25,000 in sales tax revenues to assist the city.

Ned spoke during  a public hearing in which the Board discussed whether the city should proceed with the demolition request for the building located at 124. East Grolee.

The condition of the building, Ned added, is questionable, due to the roof failure.

“Any building with no roof on it is something that will draw attention. I’m just trying to look out for the city’s interest and not have any liability,” Ned said.

The city administration has not determined, at least publicly, for what is planned for the property if the building is razed.

Requesting Restraint 

Representatives from the Opelousas Main Street Program and Historic Development District attended the meeting and several of them asked the Board for time to develop strategies so the building can be saved.

Gretchen Erlingson told the Board that preservationists have contacted architects and that there is an active effort aimed at rehabilitating the structure.

Erlingson reminded city officials that they obtained the property three years ago and nothing has been done with the building since then.

Rehabilitating the building might motivate other downtown building owners to rehab their properties, said Erlingston.

“We are going to push and push hard to rehab this building and we are asking for your help,” Erlingson told the Board.

Discussion Among The Board

Alderwoman Delita Broussard added that in its present condition, the structural integrity of the building doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“I think we should give (the preservationists) time to investigate and see if the building can be put back into use,” said Broussard.

Alderman Marvin Richard added that perhaps there needs to be more time provided in order to get more individuals involved with the preservation effort. 

However Alderman John Guilbeaux wondered about the length of time the city should be willing to provide in order to develop a preservation strategy.

“It’s a safety issue right now. If we give you 90 days and nothing is done at all, then at some point we are going to have to do something about it. We are looking for you to tell us that you are going to do something and that you are going to be adamant about what you say you are going to do,” Guilbeaux told the preservationist group.