Bid approved for new Livingston courthouse

The Livingston Parish Council approved
an $18.4 million low bid Thursday to construct a new courthouse.

Despite a funding shortfall for the construction, the council made the decision after hearing promises of financial help from the heads of agencies that will occupy the courthouse.

Officials from several agencies have tried for more than a decade to build a courthouse to replace the one constructed in 1941, complaining it is no longer large enough, is in poor condition and poses severe security problems.

A new courthouse is “sorely needed,” District Attorney Scott Perrilloux told the council Thursday night.

Previously, Perrilloux complained about a lack of separate space for jurors, defendants and witnesses as well as relatives of victims and defendants.

The courthouse’s dozen exterior doors, which are too numerous to be manned by deputies with metal detectors, adds to security concerns, Perrilloux has said.

Perrilloux, Clerk of Court Tom Sullivan, Chief Judge Bob Morrison and Sheriff Jason Ard told the council their agencies would help deal with the funding shortfall.

They gave no specifics, but according to one possibility that has been discussed, the agencies themselves might foot the bill for finishing work that will be needed on their new offices.

Six agencies put up a total of $900,000 to purchase land for a new courthouse complex 11 years ago, but the parish wasn’t able to find funding sources to construct a courthouse on the property.

Sullivan came up with a funding source by increasing various filing fees in his office and dedicating the extra money to building a courthouse.

Based on that income, the parish sold bonds to build the structure on the land purchased a decade ago, but the low bid received last month was more than $1 million short of what the parish was able to raise by selling bonds, Parish President Layton Ricks said.

Councilman Marshall Harris said Thursday night he doesn’t think the parish would be able to get another bid as low as the $18.4 million offer again.

“Everyone knows that we need a new courthouse,” he said.

The council voted 7-0 to accept the bid by Cangelosi Ward Inc., a Baton Rouge firm that was the lowest of nine bidders.

Architect Jay Labarre told the council he has worked with the firm in the past and found it to be excellent.

The 109,000-square-foot courthouse will provide what the parish needs, but isn’t extravagant, Labarre said.

“It will stand with any courthouse in the state, and nobody can touch us with the price,” he told the council.

The design offers opportunities for expansion as the parish continues to grow, Labarre said.