Parish buildings to get review
Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 13, 2008
By ROBIN SHANNON
EDGARD – After years of operating in cramped locales spread all over the parish, the St. John Parish government is taking the first step to remedy the growing problem of limited office space.
At a finance committee meeting Tuesday, St. John Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy proposed an agreement between the parish and Murray Architects of Destrehan to conduct a needs assessment study for parish building space requirements.
McTopy told the St. John Council that the Edgard Courthouse, The Percy Hebert Building, and various other locations used for government offices are becoming increasingly more crowded, and said the parish is long overdue for a space utilization study and report.
“We plan to interview directors and employees concerning wants and needs for operation to get an idea of where we have to go in the future,” said McTopy. “The study will survey existing buildings and look to the future of construction in the parish.”
St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the study is something that has been talked about over the past couple of years as the parish has experienced serious growth.
“We have simply outgrown our shell, and need to look at new ways to utilize our space,” said Boe. “The Sheriff’s Office is cramped, certain parish departments are operating out of trailers, and we just have an immediate need for more space.”
Boe said the study could eventually lead to construction of one all-purpose building for parish government affairs, with flexible walls that could be opened and closed as needed.
“We need only look to our neighbor to the east in St. Charles Parish,” said Boe. “They have one three story complex that is all inclusive, and that makes for more efficient operation, and a better delivery of services.”
Boe explained that the present state of government operations is unfriendly to those looking to start up new business in St. John Parish. He said a new prospective business owner would have to make stops at four separate buildings in the parish to get a business plan off the ground.
“We want to see what we can do to eliminate some of those stops,” said Boe. “It is unprofessional to do business in that manner. A perfect example is the Planning and Zoning Department. Their operations do not include any kind of room to discuss issues with contractors. All of the talks are done right at the front window for everyone to see, and that is not right.”
Boe said the study will cost the parish about $62,000, and would take anywhere from 60 to 90 days to complete. The study will look into expansion and renovation of various buildings, including the Edgard Courthouse and the Hebert Building on the East Bank in LaPlace. Despite possible new construction, Boe stressed that the results of the study would not lead to a movement of the parish seat from Edgard.
Boe said the assessment would help the parish plan for development for the next 10 to 15 years worth of parish growth.