St. John Council talks courthouse renovations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2012



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday voted to alter the budget for proposed renovations to the parish courthouse in Edgard. The project is expected to go through the bid process in the coming weeks.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the original estimated budget for the project was $905,000, but after discussions with those who utilize the building, additional improvements were added to the design and boosted the budget to about $1.34 million.

Robottom said the most noticeable change to the building would be construction of a new wing for juvenile defendants so they and their attorneys and families can be segregated from adult defendants. She said the additional funding needed for the new wing would come from various funds in the budget but said most would come from a fund dedicated to juvenile justice. The project also calls for wiring upgrades, additional security for judges and more space for the clerk of court offices. Robottom said the parish is going through the permitting process for the plans, which could create more design alterations.

Robottom said the project is a more scaled back version of a more ambitious plan drafted by former Parish President Bill Hubbard’s administration that was to be financed by a bond issue from 2009, which also included a new government complex in LaPlace on the grounds of the Percy Hebert Building. The administration is still discussing plans for that project.

In approving the amendment to the project’s budget, the council also approved a $42,000 increase in the architectural fee paid to Chenevert and Associates. The new project cost increases the fee to $137,000.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved the substantial completion of a $1.6 million project to improve drainage in the St. Joan of Arc/ Persimmon Street neighborhood in the Milesville area of LaPlace. The project added new pump stations and reconfigured drainage so that rainwater drains toward the Mississippi River instead of toward Airline Highway. The council also approved authorization to advertise for bids for a project to improve Greenwood Drive in LaPlace in front of LaPlace Elementary. The project calls for replacement of concrete slabs and a new bridge over the Greenwood Drive Canal. The repairs will take place after the close of school in May.

The council also authorized an agreement with an unnamed north Louisiana parish for shelter facilities for residents in the event of a mandatory evacuation in St. John Parish. Similar agreements have been in place since 2009. Emergency Preparedness Director Jobe Boucvalt said the location is not revealed to the public out of concerns for security. He said any resident who boards a bus for evacuation will know ahead of time where they are heading but added the parish wants to ensure only St. John residents are going to the location.