JP president says parish working daily to get Arts Center completed

Gretna, La. -- Jefferson Parish President John Young said his administration is working daily to remove obstacles standing in the way of the completion of the Jefferson Performing Arts Center in Metairie.

Construction began on the facility next to Zephyr Stadium in 2007, before Young was elected parish president, and it was supposed to be completed in 2009.  The parish said it was plagued by design issues.

Given the delays in completing the project and the ballooning costs associated with it, Young is now negotiating with the contractor to resolve all issues.

"Extremely frustrating, but we're working feverishly to bring it to a global resolution and we're close but we're not there yet.  But hopefully we'll have an announcement in the near future," said Young.

While he said he is pushing to have the facility completed this year, he could not say with certainty that that would be the case.

"This was not expected.  The amount of money that was told to us that it was going to cost to complete this project has now far been exceeded.  It draws into question some of the early decisions that were made as it relates to this facility, whether or not they were on the mark or not," said Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts.

The original cost of the center was pegged at $26 million; now it is double that.

The parish recently audited the Jefferson Performing Arts Society because it receives parish and state funding, and some accounting problems were cited during the draft audit report.  As a result, Young has suspended current parish funding to the JPAS.

"We want to keep that money frozen at this point in time because there is a process. The findings were only draft findings, so now that responses have been received from the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, our internal auditor will look at those responses.  He'll then draft a final audit report which will be presented to the Ethics and Compliance Committee, upon which I sit and three council members sit," Young said during an interview with FOX 8 News.

Young said, once the final audit report is done, recommendations will be made and his administration will make a decision on the funding for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society.