Last Modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 3:02 PMMoney from a sales tax on the December ballot would only be able to used for upgrades to the Beauregard Parish courthouse, a judge said.
Judge Martha O’Neal said the wording was “ironclad” that proceeds from the 15-year, quarter-cent sales tax be used exclusively for courthouse improvements.
“I think that’s very important for Beauregard Parish to know because many had expressed concern that it would be open-ended,” O’Neal said.
The tax will be on the ballot Dec. 8.
A similar proposal a decade ago failed because the wording did not ensure that the tax only be used for courthouse upgrades, O’Neal said.
The Beauregard Parish Police Jury formed a Courthouse Citizens’ Committee to consider the needs and options for the courthouse.
The condition of the 98-year-old courthouse has been a hot topic for years, particularly its lack of handicapped access. The courthouse has no elevator and the only wheelchair access to the second-story courthouse was a wheelchair lift, which no longer works.
Recently, O’Neal said, a detective had a medical issue while in court. EMTs were not able to get all their equipment up the stairs and they weren’t able to transport the detective down the stairs on a stretcher, she said.
They had to remove him from the stretcher, put him on a chair and carry him down the stairs, she said.
“It could be anybody that this happened to,” O’Neal said. “It was a horrible incident at no fault of anybody but the fact that there is no elevator.”
But access isn’t the only issue, she said — a lack of space, parking and security are also factors.
There are two courtrooms in the courthouse — the main courtroom upstairs that can be used for jury trials and a second courtroom that seats only about 20 people.
“I think the tax has become a necessity due to a lack of access for handicapped and disabled individuals, as well as the fact that we’re totally out of room,” O’Neal said.
The Beauregard courthouse mirrors one built by the same architect in the early 1900s in Bastrop, O’Neal said. Upgrades previously done to the Bastrop courthouse were considered when deciding how to proceed with improvements to the Beauregard courthouse, O’Neal said, including having any additions made in such a way that the “historical appearance” of the courthouse will be preserved. The courthouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Included in the upgrades will be an additional 13,986 square feet of space, bathrooms with handicapped access and new wiring and electrical systems, according to a pamphlet on the tax.
The additions will include enough room for future growth, O’Neal said, because “we’re busier than ever. At some point we’re going to have to ask for a third judge.”
Posted By: claude On: 10/14/2012
Title: A tax increase?
I find it difficult to believe the good citizens of Beauregard parish would approve a tax increase to benefit the court in this economic climate. Please turn out and vote!