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BPPJ moving on plans to renovate century-old courthouse

BY ELONA WESTON
DERIDDER -- Renovating the aging Beauregard Parish Courthouse won't be easy, but parish officials hope the upgrades will last the public at least another century.

The courthouse, built around 1914, will see major changes over the next two years.

Parish voters, in December 2012, favored a 15-year, 1/4 percent sales tax dedicated to handicapped accessibility upgrades and expansions. Money collected will also allow the construction of an annex and will address security concerns.

The total project construction cost is estimated at over $11.2 million.

Police jurors have been mulling plans and laying out the timeline. On Tuesday, Bobby Hennigan, parish administrator, said courthouse offices will be moved this fall into the former First Baptist Church property, purchased to temporarily house operations during the revamp.

"They're ready to move," Hennigan said of courthouse officials.

Courthouse officials were instrumental in crafting the tax proposal. For years, officials -- including judges -- have complained of inadequate access, office space and restroom facilities. The building does not have an elevator. Handicapped individuals must use a lift to access the main courtroom upstairs, also where the building's only handicapped accessible restroom is located. Some have cited the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law which mandates local governments to provide the disabled with physical access to all programs.

The temporary facility, however, also needs improvements. It, too, will have to be ADA compliant. Police jurors have said that construction on the courthouse will begin in 2015 with a target completion date of 2016. The advertisement of bids for the temporary building's upgrades could happen as early as March. Paul Lemaire, of Corne-Lemaire Group in Lafayette, is the project's engineer.

"The architect is ready to do his final drawings. In the meantime, the courthouse annex in the old Baptist church, we've almost got everything ready to go out for bids to redo that so we can move everything in the courthouse into that building," said police juror Gary Crowe in an interview last month.

On the long list of officials' concerns are plumbing and adhering to historical requirements. The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. State fire marshal requirements on the courthouse and temporary building will also have to be met.

The three-story courthouse, designed by New Orleans architects Stevens and Nelson, was built on land donated by the Hudson River Lumber Company. The architects designed the Morehouse Parish Courthouse in its likeness.
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Location : New Orleans
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