New facility consolidates sheriff ops in St. Charles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2011



LULING – Various state and local leaders, along with sheriffs from six outside parishes, joined St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne as he unveiled his department’s new headquarters Thursday during a ceremony at the Luling facility.

The 34,000-square-foot $6.6 million building, designed to withstand a moderate category 3 hurricane, will consolidate the Sheriff’s Office enforcement operations into one place – a first for the department, according to Champagne.

“There are only five parishes in Louisiana with no municipal police department to assist the Sheriff’s department, and St. Charles is one of those parishes,” Champagne said. “My deputies are the ones who do it all to protect the community from crime, so I felt we needed a building that would allow us to have a full service law enforcement operation under one building. This department has been in existence for over 100 years, since just after reconstruction. This is the first time in history we’ll have a stand-alone facility to run our operations.”

Maj. Sam Zinna, who spearheaded the project and monitored construction, said the building will be home to the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol, detective, and juvenile divisions, as well as the crime lab. The building also has space for evidence processing and storage, fingerprinting, interview rooms outfitted with audio and video equipment and conference rooms.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and sheriffs from St. James, Jefferson, Orleans, Ascension, Plaquemines and Lafourche parishes joined Champagne to open the building Thursday. After joking about the fact Champagne was able to construct the building without raising taxes or asking for state funds, Jindal offered his congratulations to the sheriff and his deputies on the new facility.

“The people who run toward danger and not away from it deserve such a fine facility,” Jindal said. “They are the last ones to leave during a dangerous situation and the first ones on the scene.”

The multipurpose room inside the building, used for meetings, press conferences and other gatherings, was also dedicated Thursday in honor of late St. Charles Parish Judge Edward Dufresne Jr., who passed away earlier this year. Dufresne donated a large tract of land where the building stands to the parish before his death.

The land was originally slated to house a community center, but Champagne came to Dufresne with a vision for the future of the department. Dufresne’s daughter, Debra Dufresne-Vial said she recalled how enthusiastic her father was when Champagne came to him with his plans.

“My father was like a little kid at Christmas,” Dufresne-Vial said. “He loved to see the collaboration of government entities. He beamed with pride at the notion of using the property for the good of the parish.”

St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre Jr. said the parish still has plans for a community center on the property. He said the parish will likely go out for bids sometime next month on a building near the sheriff’s complex.

Champagne said the building has been in the works for more than four years, and the Sheriff’s Office broke ground in 2009.

Funding for construction of the complex came from a series of loans that also funded renovations to the parish’s old jail facility on the third floor of the courthouse.