The push for a new courthouse for Lincoln Parish didn’t get very far at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), after the fiscal realities became clear of just how tight money is in Baton Rouge. The plan was to submit a request to the Legislature for capital outlay money for construction costs, estimated to be as much as $25 million.
However, Jury Administrator Courtney Hall told the jury’s Public Property and Buildings Committee that he had visited with the area’s legislative delegation, and prospects for such an appropriation were dim.
Said Hall, “At this point, I don’t see all of them (area Legislators) on board. They only have $25 million for the whole state – it would be difficult to have one project to try to make deals with.” He added, “If we send this application to our legislative delegation, and you don’t have a unanimous response – letters of support to go with that application – that sends a big signal.”
Hall noted that a significant amount of local matching funds – 50% or more – would realistically be needed to convince the legislature to fund the remaining amount. That amount of local funding would require additional taxes and/or the sale of bonds, Hall said.
District Seven’s Jody Backus, who had been one of the more vocal proponents of the plan, said he understood that the time might not be right for a new courthouse.
Said Backus, “I understand what’s happening and why. Now might not be the time to push it. If the time’s not right, it’s just not right.”
There was some discussion about long-term plans, and what that meant for the several other properties owned by the jury, and how that might tie into future construction plans. Also mentioned was the possibility of requesting money for a study or planning, but the committee seemed cool to the idea, as it might jeopardize the possibility of funding the entire project.
Reportedly, State Senator Rick Gallot (District 29) had earlier this year told some jurors that capital outlay money was available and convinced them to push for the money.
The committee also discussed assignment of the space formerly occupied by the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office on the ground floor of the courthouse to other parish agencies. As no definite assignments have been made, discussions will continue among the interested parties.
Funding prospects for two other projects fared better in a meeting of the Public Works Committee. Angela Manning, Commissioner of the North Louisiana Exhibition Center made a pitch for a $400 thousand plus covered warmup area with horse stalls for the center. Such a structure would allow rodeo participants to exercise and warm up their horses prior to events in the main arena. Manning said she could have scheduled a half dozen more events this year, if they had such an area.
Several local citizens who regularly use the center came to the meeting and spoke in support.
Also, the committee discussed applying for about $2.3 million to reconstruct Beacon Light Road. It was noted that capital outlay money was easier to obtain for roads, and that both projects would require but a 25% match.