By Bob Anderson
Florida Parishes bureau
July 24, 2012
LIVINGSTON – Bob Morrison didn’t think his job description as chief judge of 21st Judicial District Court involved a mop.
Nevertheless, he found himself using one to sop rain water when it began to pour through the ceiling of the Livingston Parish Courthouse.
“We need a new courthouse yesterday,” Morrison said Monday morning.
Water seeped into three judge’s offices and three other courthouse rooms late Friday just as everyone was about to leave for the weekend, he said.
Elsewhere in the building, water from drains backed up into the Clerk of Court’s Office and into a courtroom, Clerk of Court Tom Sullivan said.
Both Morrison and Sullivan said their offices avoided any damage to records or computer equipment.
Water got into the computer room in the judges’ offices, but Morrison and other courthouse personnel used mops and brooms to get the water out, officials said.
Had the leaks started a few minutes later, after everyone had left, computer damage might have occurred, Morrison said.
Sam Digirolamo, director of the Department of Public Works, said DPW and an architect were trying to determine Monday what repairs need to be done.
The courthouse has suffered previous leaks and water backups.
The building, which was constructed in 1941 and has been expanded a number of times, has long been a source of aggravation for Morrison, Sullivan and others who work there.
Morrison and District Attorney Scott Perrilloux have complained not only about leaks, but also about a lack of space for jurors and witnesses, a labyrinth of hallways visitors must navigate and security problems from the courthouse’s numerous exterior doors.
Perrilloux, who had escaped the courthouse’s cramped conditions by moving his offices to a building a block away, also had water problems during Friday afternoon’s heavy rain.
A roof drain that runs through the attic broke directly over his office, Perrilloux said.
He said papers on his desk got wet, but no computer equipment or crucial documents were damaged.
Several other officials, who were unhappy with the courthouse, have moved their operations to other buildings in recent years.
Bids should go out within a few weeks to construct a new parish courthouse, estimated to cost $17.9 million, Morrison said.
That 91,000-square-foot courthouse would be built on La. 63 near the Livingston exit of Interstate 12.
More than a decade ago, six of the agencies that then had offices in the courthouse put up $900,000 to purchase the land for a new courthouse complex.
While officials tried to find funds to build a courthouse, two other governmental buildings have been constructed on portions of that land. Those buildings house the Parish Council meeting room and staff offices, the Parish President’s Office, permit offices, the Coroner’s Office, the Office of Emergency Preparedness, the health unit and other operations.
Two years ago, Sullivan proposed funding construction of a new courthouse by increasing fees in the clerk’s office by $100 for each civil suit filed and by $20 for each deed and mortgage filed.
The Legislature subsequently approved the increase in the legal filing fees within Livingston Parish and the Parish Council approved sale of bonds to be repaid using the additional fees from the clerk’s office.
Judges, the clerk of court and the sheriff continue to operate their offices in the courthouse, which includes four courtrooms.