GONZALES — If you're in an Ascension Parish government building and you hear feet thumping on the roof overhead, it probably isn't Santa's reindeer, just yet, but more likely workers in hard hats and boots.
Responsible for $250 million in hard assets, from roads and flood gates to backhoes and parks, parish government is investing in new roofing for some of its older buildings.
Only a few years removed from completion of a new $6.9 million parish government complex in Gonzales and with budding plans by the judges of the 23rd Judicial District Court to build a new $25 million parish courthouse on the parish's East Bank and leave the Courthouse Annex in Gonzales, the parish is trying to catch up on needed maintenance, said parish government spokesman Martin McConnell.
A few weeks ago, contractors started roofing work on the existing Courthouse Annex in Gonzales, Ascension's most heavily used court, which is also home to the Sheriff's Office, the Clerk of Court, Registrar of Voters and the Assessor's Office, as well as the Parish Council and School Board meeting chambers.
Walking behind plastic flags marking the roof's edge, workers have been visible on the multi-tiered flat roofs of the modern red brick and glass buildings of the courthouse and also heard while court is in session.
James Moore, owner of Expert Maintenance and Construction Services of Prairieville, said Thursday his company and a subcontractor are replacing the courthouse's old gravel-and-tar flat roofs with a new roofing system.
McConnell said the company is working under a $729,000 project that includes re-roofing the parish Clerk of Court's space in the historic Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville, the parish seat.
The old Romanesque revival-style red brick building was built in 1889 and is one of two parish courthouses, one on each side of the Mississippi River.
McConnell said the company is expected to finish in Gonzales in three weeks or so and then shift to the Clerk of Court's portion of the Donaldsonville courthouse.
On Thursday, the Parish Council also agreed to hire Meyer Engineers at a cost of $49,833 for the next round of roofing. Meyer will design three more roofing jobs and do other early phases of the work to bring the projects through the public bid phase.
Though cost figures aren't yet available, the parish plans to re-roof three flat-roofed buildings in the vicinity of the Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville: the Human Resources building, District Attorney Ricky Babin's pretrial intervention program building and the former Louisiana National Guard Armory building.
McConnell said the next round of roofing will happen in 2018 and part of 2019. One older parish building left off the roofing list is the small office space now leased to the Caro Clinic next to the parish governmental complex. McConnell said that clinic office, which had originally been slated for re-roofing but was replaced with the District Attorney's Office building, will be demolished after the new parish courthouse is built.
"(The) Administration determined that a substitution of the PTI building was a better use of funds," McConnell said of pretrial intervention building.
The armory is a polling place and is used as a records archive by parish Clerk of Court Bridget Hanna, though she has plans to shift that storage to the new courthouse whenever it is built.
Other agencies for which parish government is required to provide office space have expressed interest in unused parts of the Courthouse Annex in Gonzales whenever the judges move into their new courthouse.