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Inside EKL

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BATON ROUGE - The charity hospital along Airline Highway will soon be gone as the state works on securing a contract to begin demolition of Earl K. Long.

The hospital was closed in April 2013, when the state dismantled its charity hospital system.

It will cost about $2 million to remove harmful asbestos and lead and knock the building down. Bids from contractors were collected last Wednesday and one will be selected later this month with hopes to begin the demolition process in early 2015.

EKL has been a Baton Rouge landmark since 1968. The year before it closed about 26,000 patients were admitted to the emergency room. Since, those people have transfered to other clinics and hospitals for care.

"It was a very important facility for health care for many, many years," said Facility Planning Director Mark Moses. "As health care moves in a different direction, the facility is outdated. We need to go ahead and move forward with the demolition so that site can be used for something else for the community."

A tall, barbed wire fence and padlock keep the old hospital secure. A security detail watches over the building day and night. Most of the doors and windows are boarded up. Inside, the building is empty except for desks, sinks and movie props used during the filming of Fantastic Four.

State Sen. Sharon Broome has been on the project since the decision was made to close it. She said renovating the hospital was not practical because of the amount of asbestos in the walls and ceilings.

"The sky is the limit in terms of possibilities to bring economic growth and development to our community through this property," said Broome.

There will be input collected from the community for what's next. Meetings will be scheduled in January to help create a vision for this area of Baton Rouge.

Demolition is expected to take nine months.

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