Our 50-year-old Lafayette Parish courthouse continues to serve the residents of our parish, despite that our population has grown from 85,000 to well over 227,000. We have grown from three judges to 13, along with a commissioner and several hearing officers, to handle the needs of Lafayette. We continue to use some of the same wiring installed 50 years ago, but back then we had no electric typewriters, copy machines, fax machines or personal computers.
Lafayette Consolidated Government is the owner and responsible party for maintaining our parish courthouse, on behalf of the parish’s residents. LCG has worked with our state officials to get some form of matching dollars in order to address the decades-long neglect of the courthouse. The roof has been replaced, new chillers and a new cooling tower were installed, along with a new fire alarm. The public may have noticed two of the five elevators have been rebuilt. The long-abandoned seventh floor jail is being demolished and will, hopefully, be available for use in the near future.
Some asbestos abatement has been performed on certain parts of the building. For these improvements, the tenants of the courthouse are appreciative beyond belief.
However, this building still has serious safety and security concerns. There are still no holding cells for inmates. Up to 50 prisoners at a time are still walked across the street and kept in an unlocked courtroom. The public, victims, witnesses, employees, judges and prisoners still ride the same elevators. Multiple studies have concluded that Lafayette Parish needs a new courthouse.
This building can still be used for governmental office space. Bluntly, criminal and civil court should NOT be held here. Since our present courthouse was built in 1964, Lafayette has a new city courthouse, federal courthouse, city hall, police station, multiple fire stations, public schools and hospitals.
Lafayette Parish will build a new courthouse at some point in the future. The only thing certain is the cost will continue to go up, not down, as long as our elected leaders deny the truth.
I often wonder what LCG officials will say to the families of someone who is killed or injured in this building.
It is neither liberal nor conservative to support an obvious need.
Lafayette, where do you stand?
[Editor’s Note: Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret wrote this as an update to last year’s column, “The Case for a New Courthouse.”]