Avoyelles Police Jury renews interest in ‘one-stop shop’
Several months ago the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury decided it wanted to buy a building to serve as a “one-stop shop” for parish services.
Then came a proposal that would have emptied the third floor of the courthouse, moving courtrooms and judicial offices to a separate facility to be built a few miles away. There was also a rumor that the Clerk of Court’s Office would move to the new center, leaving a large area of the first floor vacant.
Police jurors shelved the idea of purchasing one of the vacant buildings near the courthouse for its “Parish Public Services Building,” reasoning that those areas of the courthouse would be an even better “one-stop shop.”
The 1/2-cent sales tax to fund the construction, operation and maintenance of the Avoyelles Justice Center failed, so nobody will be moving out of the courthouse anytime soon.
All of that brings us up to date, with the Police Jury once again seeking to purchase a vacant building near the courthouse for the envisioned “one stop.”
ACCESSIBILITY IS KEY
“The main reason we are interested in what we are calling the ‘One Stop’ deals with accessibility to some of our services,” Police Jury President Kirby Roy said. “Especially for our elderly citizens. It is too difficult for them to climb the stairs or take the elevator under the current set up in the courthouse.”
Roy said he would like to see at least the main front and rear doors opened again.
The two main entrances lead up to the second floor, where the Police Jury, Registrar, Assessor, Legislator, HUD and Permit offices are located.
Those large outdoor staircases are easier for people to use, he noted.
A few years ago the courthouse was reduced to a single entry/exit doorway on the first floor in the rear of the courthouse -- a door that was used primarily to bring prisoners to and from the courtroom for their court proceedings.
Metal detectors were also installed to enhance security.
“People detest the single entry point,” Roy said. “I won’t use the elevator. I will walk up to the second or third floor.”
Roy said he is leery of the elevator because it has been known to get stuck.
It would cost over $200,000 to put a modern elevator in the 92-year-old courthouse.
Roy said many Avoyelles residents aren’t physically able to maneuver the narrow stairway and climb one or two flights.
ABOUT THE ‘ONE STOP’
The vision for the “one-stop shop” is mostly about convenience, efficiency and eliminating as much hassle as possible in dealing with such matters as obtaining a parish permit.
The plan is to put as many services as possible under one roof and to have any need for paperwork to be only a phone call away -- eliminating the need for the constituent to drive to another facility and then come back to the Police Jury office, Roy said.
“We would put our Permit Office there, our Veterans Affairs Office, our Office of Emergency Preparedness, the HUD (federally subsidized housing) program and maybe even the legislator’s office could be moved there.”
Another possibility now being considered is to put a third courtroom in the proposed service building.
“It would be a small courtroom, but that is an option we might consider,” Roy said.
12th Judicial District Judge Billy Bennett has said Avoyelles’ judicial caseload qualifies it for a third judgeship.
However, if the parish is granted a third district judge, it would need to provide space for the new judge’s office and for the third courtroom.
In addition to those offices, the Police Jury would create a meeting room for the various parish commissions, boards and committees that currently have to meet in the courthouse.
OFFERS BEING SOUGHT
The Police Jury is advertising for offers from owners of commercial property within 500 yards of the courthouse that is one-story, at least 4,500 sq. ft. with a level parking area capable
of accommodating at least 20 vehicles.
Property owners must have clear title, free of any mortgages or liens.
The sealed offers to sell the property to the Police Jury must arrive by mail or be hand-delivered to the jury office on the second floor of the courthouse by 4 p.m. Feb. 10.
The proposals must include the name, address, contact phone number, submitted building’s address, a photograph of the building, a statement including the square footage and proposed price of the property.
The proposal package must be marked “Property Proposal.”
The proposals will be opened at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 11, just prior to the Police Jury’s regular monthly meeting.
It is expected the jury will at least discuss the offers at the and possibly take action on whether to purchase an annex building or continue to “make do” with the facilities in the courthouse.