The Durel administration is negotiating to move Acadiana Open Channel from its current location at 704 Lee Ave. into a new office complex at the Rosa Parks Transportations Center, located at the corner of Jefferson and Cypress Streets. City officials recently broke ground on a new
two-story building being constructed for the Rosa Parks center to house a new downtown U.S. Post Office and city offices; The Durel administration now says those plans can be expanded, with existing funding, to add 8300 square feet to bring in the public access TV station. The administration has been seeking a new home for A.O.C. since announcing a proposal to demolish A.O.C.'s current building, along with the neighboring old federal courthouse and police building, to make way for new development downtown. Acadiana Open Channel's service contract with the city also is set to expire in November and will have to be renegotiated in advance of any lease agreement.
While these plans have been discussed for over a year, they began to make headway this week. At its Tuesday meeting, the city parish council introduced an ordinance authorizing the administration to negotiate a new service contract and lease with A.O.C. The administration also introduced a separate ordinance to the council dealing with resolving property title issues with the school board on the old federal courthouse. Lafayette Consolidated Government Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley says time is of the essence in negotiating terms with A.O.C. because construction at the Rosa Parks Center is nearing a point where contractors will need to adjust their plans if additional space is to be added. Agreements will need to be in place, and approved by both the city-parish council and the A.O.C. board, by August in order to avoid any construction delays. The proposed addition will cost approximately $1.8 million and could be completed by early next year. Because the Rosa Parks facility's construction bid came in below initial estimates, Stanley says all of the costs can be covered with existing funds for the center. "We're able to expand the building 8,000 square feet," Stanley says, "plus relocate AOC, put a public purpose in a public building and also get rent for the space that's being built out. It's a win, win, win." If a deal is not reached, Stanley says he is unsure whether the city can redirect those surplus funds for other purposes.
The Durel administration has just completed its first proposed contract and lease agreement for A.O.C, obtained yesterday afternoon by The Independent. While A.O.C. currently operates rent-free in a city-owned building, the new arrangement calls for the public access channel to sign a 10-year lease at the Rosa Parks center at an annual cost of $114,955.00, or $9,579.58 a month. The proposed service contract also is for 10 years. It maintains A.O.C.'s current operations funding of $220,000. It also provides for an additional $155,000 in funding for rent and utilities, the bulk of who will be reverting back to the city. "Such payment is conditioned upon said Lease being in effect and not in default and to be made only with regard to the active lease term(s)," the contract states. "Notwithstanding the foregoing, the payment referred to in this paragraph shall in no event exceed the actual annual lease payment due by AOC under the Lease."
A.O.C. Director Ed Bowie says he received the proposed contracts this morning and acknowledges that while he and his board are looking to re-negotiate several issues in the proposals - including a significant increase in A.O.C.'s annual funding - he is optimistic a deal can be reached. "It's been very easy to work with the administration," he says. He adds that a newly-built A.O.C. office will come with amenities including two studios, and a computer lab with individual video editing booths. "If the deal goes through, Lafayette will have a media center comparable to any in the country," he says.