METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Rep. Cameron Henry has blocked the use of almost $10 million in lines of credit intended for the Jefferson Performing Arts Center, saying he wants Jefferson Parish officials to explain why the project costs have skyrocketed.

The Times-Picayune reports ( the Metairie Republican asked the state Bond Commission for a 30-day delay in reauthorization of the line of credit.

Parish Council member Chris Roberts said he supported Henry's action. Roberts said he doesn't think the parish administration has adequately addressed a scathing report by the legislative auditor's office last year on cost overruns at the long-delayed arts center.

One change order of $5.6 million was paid even though Reda Youssef, capital projects director for the parish, said he could not certify more than $2.8 million.

Parish President John Young said the change order issue has been "asked and answered." Youssef explained that the change order was largely rooted in delay charges, Young said. In addition, Perrin and Carter, the architectural firm overseeing the project, recommended paying the full amount, Young said.

Roberts said the administration must go a step further. "They need to put that (explanation) in an official document and make that document part of the record and send that document to the legislative auditor," Robert said. "To date I've seen none of that."

The project began with architectural design work in 1998. The construction contract was awarded to J. Caldarera & Co. of LaPlace for $26.5 million.

But seven change orders have raised the total to $44.7 million. And parish officials say an additional $8 million is needed to complete the center.

John Davis, who oversees state-financed construction projects for Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the state has paid about $28 million to Jefferson Parish.

The arts center site project is in Henry's district.

"We are endlessly paying for this project," Henry said.

He said its cost has become "embarrassingly high" and delaying action on the line of credit was warranted until more information is available.


Information from: The Times-Picayune,