Agencies to split shortfall

Livingston Parish agencies are piecing together money to fill a shortfall of more than $3 million as they prepare to begin construction on an $18.4 million courthouse.

One big piece of that jigsaw is $622,000 that the Parish Council realized it can save on building material sales taxes, said Marshall Harris, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee.

Sales taxes were figured into the project cost, but the parish can claim an exemption on those taxes, he said.

That will make up part of the council’s half of the shortfall. The rest will have to be found in cost reductions or additional funding, Harris said.

Architect Jay Labarre said by working together, contractors, subcontractors, engineers and architects have been able to find more than $250,000 in other cost cuts that won’t compromise quality or reduce space.

Clerk of Court Tom Sullivan said his office and three other agencies that will move to the new courthouse have agreed to come up with the other half of the shortfall.

The four agencies will figure the portions of the courthouse they each will use to determine their share of the shortfall, he said.

It appears that the Clerk of Court’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office will each owe roughly $600,000, the district attorney will owe about $300,000 and the judges will owe a total of about $300,000 for their office space, Sullivan said.

Contractors and parish officials met at the new courthouse site Wednesday afternoon to discuss construction, which is set to begin Monday, Labarre said.

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

It will replace the courthouse built in 1941, which officials have long complained is too small, is in poor condition and poses severe security problems.

Money to build a replacement was elusive for a decade until Sullivan came up with the funding source: 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.

Last month, the Parish Council approved the contract of Cangelosi Ward Inc., the Baton Rouge firm that was the lowest of nine bidders, as general contractor.