ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard told the Parish Council to expect increased costs to operate the 15-year-old parish courthouse annex, which he said is beginning to have structural problems.
The building, which sits alongside the 1903 parish courthouse, has offices for the clerk of court, assessor, judges and sheriff, as well as a meeting room for the council.
Havard said Monday the council should expect the building’s maintenance cost to be “big ticket items.”
To get a revenue source for maintaining the building, the parish may want to add a special court document filing fee, he said.
“Or condemn it and build another one somewhere. I’m very serious about it. We need to get someone to look at it; it’s above my pay grade,” he said.
The building “was poorly designed, poorly engineered and poorly built,” Havard said before running over a list of problems he sees the parish facing.
Recently, a water line serving the air conditioning system broke underground, requiring workers to dig up the line and repair the leak at a cost of approximately $9,000, Havard said.
Two more lines serving the courthouse also broke, and Havard said he expects the repair work will cost another $20,000.
Asked why he thinks the water lines broke, Havard replied, “My suspicion is that the ground is shifting.”
He said a water line entering the courthouse in the rear basement of the building is also showing signs of stress. He said workers must try to find “as-built” drawings for the building to determine if a shut-off valve for the line outside the building was installed.
If the line should break, the courthouse basement, which houses parish conveyance, mortgage and court records, would be flooded unless a cutoff valve is located or installed.
A buildup of carbon monoxide in the building and other complaints resulted in a lawsuit over the design and construction, through which the parish received a monetary settlement. That money has been used on continuing courthouse maintenance and is gone, Havard said.
Before the courthouse discussion, the council approved a $28,246 payment to Infinity Engineering Consultants for design work done for a Mississippi Riverfront project to support the parish’s tourism efforts and local fishermen.
Havard said the payment is above the $90,000 the previous council approved for the design work, but the parish president said the project was “over-engineered” with a design for a floating dock to serve river boat passengers who visit St. Francisville.
“We want a wide concrete slab going into the river as far as we can for the boats and our fishermen to use,” said Havard, who began serving as parish president in December 2018.
The state Legislature has approved $3 million for the project, but the parish has to put up a local match, he said.
Councilmen Melvin Young and Justin Metz voted against the additional payment, but it was supported by Councilmen Clay Pinson, John Thompson and Kevin Dreher.