AMITE — Anticipated repairs and renovations to the 53-year-old Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse will be delayed once again after the Parish Council was asked Monday to reject the bids on the project.
Finance Director Jeff McKneely said the latest bids for the project, which has been in the planning stage for several months, are substantially higher than the available funds, but additional funding expected in September could finance the improvements.
McKneely said the lowest bid — $347,790 — was submitted by MBD Maintenance, LLC. But the parish has only $221,681 in state funds for the courthouse renovations. He added that Parish President Gordon Burgess has promises for an additional $160,000 from the state but that these funds will not be available until September.
The project’s main focus will be on restoration to the stone facing on the third floor of the building. McKneely said parts of the façade have fallen in recent months, posing a danger to those using the courthouse. The original white stone on the face of the courthouse has become discolored over the years and is now streaked and darkly colored. He also said restrooms in the building must be made handicapped-accessible, which entails cutting through some walls.
Councilman Nicky Muscarello questioned why improvements were not planned for the courtrooms housed in the building. Muscarello said a clerk tripped on duct tape holding the carpet down in one of the courtrooms last week and was injured.
McKneely said that if all the funding becomes available, the Parish Council can reissue bids in the fall and proceed with the work.
Also on Monday, Missy Cowart, an employee in the parish finance office, said the parish will be awarded $574,705 through the BP Settlement-Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. Cowart said the funds will be earmarked for improvements to Lee’s Landing on the Tangipahoa River and dredging of the river at its mouth at Lake Pontchartrain. She said the funds should be available before the end of this year.
The council also dedicated $100,000 from the Road and Bridge Fund to clear and beautify the Pumpkin Center Road intersection at Interstate 12.
And the council voted unanimously to honor two veterans. The newly completed Tangipahoa Parish Environmental Services Building will be named the Raymond Mike Clausen Jr. Building in honor of the late Mike Clausen, who was awarded the Congressional Medal Honor for exceptional bravery during service in the Vietnam War. Clausen was credited with saving the lives of numerous soldiers trapped in a minefield by safely guiding them onto a helicopter that had landed in a safe zone.
And Tickfaw town officials are renaming Third Street to Chris Drake Drive in honor of Tickfaw resident Chris Drake, who was killed in the explosion of a land mine while he was serving in Afghanistan.