Dedicated Funding Source Sought For Courthouse

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) — Lafayette Parish's Clerk of Court Louis Perret is looking for a pot of money to set aside to build a new state district courthouse in downtown Lafayette.

         The Advocate’s Billy Gunn reports that Perret wants Lafayette City-Parish Government to separate the courthouse-jail tax. The tax was imposed 30 years ago when Lafayette's jail was on the seventh floor of the courthouse. The jail moved in 1984 after the Correctional Center was completed nearby.

         "Separating the courthouse and the jail would be a good start at helping the public see that the needs are real," Perret told the Future Needs/Funding Sources Committee, a four-member body that advises city-parish officials on funding matters.

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         Committee chairman Chad Hanks said a recommendation should be made to city-parish officials before the end of 2015.

         Perret said that when the downtown jail was built in 1984, there was no effort to separate or increase funding for both the downtown jail and the courthouse. Over the years, he said, more and more of the money collected from the courthouse-jail property tax has gone to fund the jail.

         He said the 50-year-old courthouse in its current state lacks safety features needed to keep inmates, many of them violent, from getting too close to victims and witnesses during trials and hearings.

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         Lafayette has said no to a new courthouse before. In 2006, voters by a two-to-one margin said no to a 4-mill property tax that would have paid for a new courthouse, which at the time was projected to cost $65 million to $70 million.

         In the same 2006 election, 68.6 percent of voters also said no to a 2-mill tax to maintain and operate the courthouse.

         "It is going to have to be built at some point," Perret said Monday.

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         He said the cost to raze the old building and build a new state district courthouse now would cost $75 million to $80 million.

         City-parish government is renovating the courthouse. Floors six and seven have been fixed up and are housing the Clerk of Court's Office. Also upgraded are four of the building's five elevators.

         Meanwhile, floors one and two, in which the Clerk of Court's Office operated, are closed for repairs.

         Perret said the current courthouse could be used by other city-parish departments.

         For more information




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