East Feliciana ponders former high school building’s future

The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury faces a decision on the future use of a 110-year-old former school building now that the last parish office housed in it has vacated the premises.

The two-story building on Bank Street served as the first Clinton High School after it was built about 1903, said Mildred Worrell, a local historian.

Over the past 25 years, the building has housed the Police Jury’s administrative offices, LSU AgCenter extension agents and, most recently, the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Emergency Preparedness Director Bud Weigand told the jury Tuesday he has moved his office to the RKM Primary Care Center, a federally qualified health care center in Clinton, but he said he still has some items stored in the school building.

Weigand is attempting to cut his office’s operating costs after the state made a deep cut to his allocation of federal funds this year.

The jury’s Building and Grounds Committee decided Friday to determine if the building still could be insured if the jury decided to cut off its electricity and water service, for which Weigand’s office has been paying.

Committee members mentioned several structural problems with the building, including a buildup of mold in some areas and an air conditioning system that does not work on the second floor.

The Police Jury has other buildings on the property, including a building for the parish registrar of voters.

The committee also discussed janitorial and maintenance issues at the parish’s antebellum courthouse, which was restored during a four-year project completed in January 2012.

Parish Manager Glen Kent said he and Chief Civil Sheriff’s Deputy Wendi Hooge are making a checklist of janitorial tasks that a jury maintenance crew must be do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to eliminate complaints about the building’s cleanliness.

Janitorial work is done by an inmate crew supervised by a jury employee, but their performance has been spotty, Kent said.

The committee voted to separate janitorial work from maintenance duties and give Building Inspector Larry Thompson and jury employee Russ Hicks the responsibility for the structure’s upkeep.

“We’ve got to take care of it. We’ve got $4 million in that building,” committee Chairman Louis Kent said.

The committee also agreed to ask District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla for an opinion on whether the jury can enter into a long-term arrangement for the Slaughter Community Charter School to use park property to build a school.

The jury signed a three-year lease with the town of Slaughter and the charter school’s board in January 2011 allowing the school to place temporary buildings on the Slaughter park site. The jury extended the lease by two years in May 2012.

Jury President Dennis Aucoin has said the charter school wants to replace the temporary buildings with a permanent structure.