Webster Parish Police Jury eyeing courthouse annex plans

Webster Parish Police Jurors and parish officials look over tentative plans for renovation of the first floor of the courthouse annex. Renovation will include a larger meeting room, larger conference room. Renovations inside the main courthouse will take place once the annex projects are complete. Michelle Bates/ Press-Herald

The Webster Parish Police Jury is getting a clearer picture of what will be done with the first floor of the Webster Parish Courthouse annex.

While discussions have been ongoing since the police jury purchased the building in 2008, sets of plans were presented to jurors during a buildings and grounds committee meeting Tuesday.

Jury President Jim Bonsall says it is still a work in progress, but he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It is going to open up a lot of space in the courthouse for the DA, for the judges,” he said. “It’s going to make our office more accessible to the public. It’s just much needed space. Everybody’s been cramped up here in the courthouse for a long time.”

The tentative plan is to do minimal remodeling on the first floor, with the exception of the teller area of the former Regions Bank building. That will be remodeled into the police jury meeting room with ample space for the public and jurors, along with two conference rooms.

Offices will remain much the same, and the public entrance will no longer be on the east side of the building, but it will be on the west side, which faces Miller Street. At that entrance, patrons will walk into a spacious lobby area and can go directly into the police jury meeting room when jurors meet.

While they are discussing the plans for the courthouse annex, talks are ongoing about what will be done with the offices the police jury vacates in the main courthouse. Bonsall says discussion is leaning towards offering the third floor police jury office to the district attorney’s office with some modifications for security.

On the second floor, tentative plans are to turn the meeting room into an additional courtroom. However, he says they are still talking to the judges to see what the needs are for them, such as office space and security measures.

The police jury has been saving money since they purchased the building, and so far, they tentatively have $300,000 to work with, he said. While the plans are becoming clear, the next discussion will be pricing the renovations and then narrowing it down to what they can afford, which will hopefully be all of it.

“Our goal is to do this and pay for it,” he said. “We’re not going to borrow any money. We’ve been putting money back, and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do when the time comes.”
Bonsall says once the renovations at the courthouse annex are complete, they will be doing some remodeling of the main courthouse. The renovations will include painting, cleaning, improvements to office space, installing and implementing better security measures and general upkeep.

“The idea is to make the space more usable,” he said. “Our ceilings are bad, our floors are bad, and it needs painting. When we get this done and move out of this space, hopefully the first thing we’re going to do is clean up this space. We’re just trying to make room for everybody, and it’s been a long time since any major work has been done here, and it’s just time.”

There is no timeline on the projects, but he says the sooner it’s all done, the better.

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