Construction continues on a new Jennings city courtroom to be located in the city's conference center on State Street. Plans for the project include a new 65-seat courtroom, judge's chamber, City Marshal's Office, clerk area, and office space for the city prosecutor. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 6:43 PM
JENNINGS — A new city court will likely be ready by the end of the year, while plans to relocate city hall will take longer to complete.
Mayor Terry Duhon said construction on the new city courtroom is progressing with crews installing walls.
“We are hoping we may be in there by Christmas,” Duhon said. “Maybe that’s too much of a gift for Santa Claus ... . If not by Christmas, then shortly thereafter.”
Plans for the new city court call for relocating the court and legal department from its location on Broadway Street to the city’s conference center down the street on State Street.
Plans for the project include a new 65-seat courtroom, judge’s chamber, City Marshal’s Office, clerk area and office space for the city prosecutor. The courtroom will also be handicap accessible.
“All in all it will be a very nice and aesthetically pleasing court and very functional,” he said.
“For those who have to work in it day in, day out, it will be something fresh and something the community can take pride in. It will be a vast improvement to the courtroom we have now.”
The city will be able to save about 62 percent of the project cost by purchasing a new filing system and audio equipment under state contract.
Just down the street, crews are working to renovate the former Allwest building for a new city hall.
“That project is moving along, although it is much more extensive than the city court project because it wasn’t just an empty shell,” he said.
Crews are working to seal bricks, remove a front stairway and open up other areas of the building.
“There’s still a lot of work going on, but you can kind of see where things will be placed,” Duhon said.
Some of the windows in the building will be changed, but most of the building’s original architect work will be refurbished, he said.
“The basic design of the building will look similar, but it will be fresher and younger,” he said.
An additional 1,000 feet is being added to the alleyway to expand a drive-thru for bill payments. The driveway will be one-way with drivers exiting to Market Street.
“We are hoping at this time next year to be in the new city hall,” Duhon said.
Plans for the city hall include relocating the mayor’s office, finance department, water department and council chambers from the old building to the new facility.
The Zigler Art Museum and gift shop will also be relocated from its home on Clara Street to the new city hall.
“The Zigler Museum is excited about getting a new (art) gallery,” Duhon said. “Though it will be sad to leave, the new gallery will be a vast improvement for them with more space for exhibits and visitors.”
“It will be a new area that they will have to showcase their artwork and the gift shop will be nice in that it will feature local artists and authentic Louisiana products similar to what was in the Tupper Museum and Old Magnolia Gift Shoppe.”
The second phase of the project will include renovating the public safety building on Broadway Street to ease overcrowding of the fire and police departments.
The city will soon acquire the old Louisiana National Guard Armory, which will provide more space for both departments.
“As part of the lease, it was stated that if they (National Guard) ever moved out of the building, it would revert back to the city,” Duhon said.
The building includes an open bay area for vehicle maintenance, a fenced-in impound area, a built-in firing range, large bathroom with showers and a kitchen area.
“We could use it as an emergency center in case we ever needed to house the National Guard for an emergency,” Duhon said.
The building will need a facelift and have a generator installed.
Duhon said money budgeted for upkeep of the old Sesco building, which is used by the police department, will be allocated to the former armory.
Improvements are also planned for the city’s street and public works departments.