Part of old parish courthouse to be vacated for work

Published 12:44 am Tuesday, January 9, 2018


VIDALIA — Government programs and companies occupying the former Old Concordia Parish Courthouse will have to find a new place of business by July 1.

The Concordia Parish Police Jury voted Monday to vacate the upper two floors of the building while the building undergoes restoration.

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“We’re having trouble at the old courthouse,” Ward 5-A Juror Jimmy Jernigan said. “We’ve been having trouble for years. The heating (doesn’t) work. The air conditioners don’t work. All the lines are rotten.”

Replacing the decrepit building fixtures, Jernigan said, would likely cost the parish between $300,000 and $400,000.

Jernigan said the jury does not currently have the money to complete such a weighty project, but plans to apply for grants to offset costs.

Jernigan said no timeline exists for how quickly the building can be fully restored, but said renovations could take two to three years.

That process could be further complicated, President Jimmy Wilkinson said, by the fact that the building is a historic landmark.

“With the historical society, there are things we can and cannot do because it’s a historical site,” Wilkinson said. “If it comes down to it and we have to take it off the (historical) record to keep it maintained, we will. We’re not going to be restricted to those guidelines if we don’t have to.”

All renovation must maintain the integrity of the building’s original façade, Wilkinson said, in order to comply with the historical society’s stipulations.

As the grant funding is sought and the construction begins, the programs housed within the top two floors of the three-story building building will have to move.

The current state of the building, Wilkinson said, does not provide a healthy working environment to the current occupants of the building.

The Council on Aging, a child support service and the worthless checks division of the district attorney’s office are housed in the top two floors of the old courthouse.

“We can’t turn the water on without risking leaking,” Wilkinson said. “Before we get anybody in there, we have to take the ceiling tiles out. That’s not a working condition for anybody down there.”

The Concordia Parish Library, which occupies the entire first floor of the building, will not have to move, but all other organizations within the building will.

Library director Amanda Taylor asked the jury if the library would have to alter its services for the duration of the repairs.

“We’re trying to protect you,” Wilkinson said. “We hate we’ve got to do this, but it’s what we have to do to protect the building.”

The library is especially at risk with the building in its current state, Wilkinson said, because any water leaks would cause flooding on the first floor.

“We’re just filled with paper, and when we flood, we’ve got an issue,” Taylor said.

Brad Burget, district attorney for Concordia Parish, runs the child support service and worthless checks division.

He asked the police jury if there would be any assistance in finding replacement housing for those programs in the interim.

“Any assistance I can get from you guys to house them would be appreciated,” Burget said. “I’d appreciate anything you guys could do.”

Wilkinson said while the policy jury is in no way obligated to find replacement housing for these programs, jurors will do all they can to help find new places for these programs to reside before July 1.