St. James to request grant for project

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 4, 2010



CONVENT – The St. James Parish Council on Wednesday approved a request to seek grant funding to help pay for a courthouse renovation and expansion project.

The $99,000 grant, requested by Parish President Dale Hymel, would come from the Louisiana Local Government Assistance Program, part of the state’s Office of Community Development.

Hymel said the grant dollars would be used to help fund continuing renovations to the parish courthouse in Convent, as well as a new 14,500-square-foot administrative building. He said the new building would house all parish court operations including clerk of court, district attorney, judges’ offices and two courtrooms.

“The present courthouse was built in 1971 and has not undergone any major changes since then,” Hymel said. “Every department in the building is asking for more space. The move will also improve operations, comfort and acoustics in both courtrooms.”

Hymel added the parish has already borrowed about $3 million for that work and other improvements to the existing courthouse. He said once the courts have settled in the new building, the parish plans to drop the high ceilings on both courtrooms and add a third floor for more office and storage space. Those offices would be used for the permit planning, geographical information systems and information technology departments.

Hymel said the anticipated completion date on the expansion project is March 2011.

Also Wednesday, the council heard a presentation from Reserve Telecommunications Co., which is taking over cable television operations on the east bank of the parish.

Bill Ironside, RTC president, said the company has been working throughout the past month to completely rebuild the cable system in the parish. He said new neighborhoods in the parish are going online every day.

“We are bringing cable and high definition stations to neighborhoods that never had it before,” Ironside said. “We are looking forward to winning back some of those customers we lost.”

Councilman James Brazan, one of three council members representing the west bank, asked Ironside about potential expansion of services across the river. Ironside said it is something the company wants to do, but not at this time.

“We can’t come to an agreement with the cable provider on that side,” Ironside said. “We have been offered the system, but they want us to also take on the Thibodaux area, and that is more than we want to grow right now.”