St. Helena Parish courthouse renovations to begin by summer

A St. Helena Parish engineering official said Tuesday that officials hope to begin work on planned renovations for the parish’s courthouse by this summer.

Morgan Watson, an engineering consultant for the parish, told the parish Police Jury at its Tuesday meeting that officials plan to advertise for bids no later than April and hope to begin construction shortly thereafter.

Police jurors met Monday with judges from the 21st Judicial District, which covers St. Helena, Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes, and representatives from the District Attorney’s Office to discuss the courthouse plans.

Plans include renovating the courthouse’s first-floor restrooms, setting up a family courtroom on the second floor and placing the District Attorney’s Office on the third floor. Renovations already completed include repairing the elevator in the courthouse.

Future renovations include upgrading the courthouse to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Police Juror Major Coleman has said.

The District Attorney’s Office and 21st Judicial District Court judges also have asked for additional courtroom space, Coleman has said. St. Helena’s courthouse has only one courtroom.

Watson told the Police Jury in July that he was hoping for a 2014 completion for the renovations.

The Police Jury learned in July that $400,000 had become available that month to spend on the courthouse project after money the state gave the parish several years ago moved into priority one status, Watson has said.

The parish will continue to look for grants and other sources of funds for the project, Watson said Tuesday.

In other business Tuesday:

PROGRAM DELAYED: The Police Jury chose to delay the start of its 2014 road rehabilitation program after several jurors raised questions over hourly rates and costs of the program.

The Police Jury voted to ask Professional Engineering Consultants, the firm enlisted to perform the project, to answer more questions before signing off on it.

The parish is looking at fixing about 30 miles of road.

PERMITS APPROVED: The Police Jury also approved alcohol permits for 39 bars, casinos, grocery stores and truck stops in the parish.

Included on the list is the Oak Ridge Lounge in Pine Grove, one of St. Helena’s two strip clubs.

PRESIDENT NAMED: The Police Jury elected Thomas Wicker as its president and Theodore McCray as its vice president for 2014. Both jurors were approved unanimously.