Courthouse security project proposed

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At the March Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission meeting, Parish President Rick Nowlin stated a project to update security at the Parish Courthouse was in the early stages.

The Times asked Nowlin to explain the project. His response follows:

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Shortly after becoming Parish President, I began to discuss with the judges and other courthouse staff what appeared to be inadequate security at the courthouse.  Unfortunately, in today’s world, public agencies and personnel are subject to attacks by disgruntled or deranged individuals who may be unhappy with the operations of government and choose to resort to violence.

The last major addition to the courthouse occurred some 50 years ago. We formed a courthouse security committee comprised of the various government agency heads and the court and developed a preliminary plan for structural and operational improvements that would significantly improve the security situation.

The principal components of the plan include the following:

1. The addition of a controlled parking area and entrance into the rear of the courthouse whereby detainees can be brought to the courthouse for legal proceedings,

2. An additional elevator to bring the detainees into the courthouse apart from the elevator used by staff and the general public, and

3. Holding cells (including restrooms) whereby the detainees can be held until the court is ready for them. The estimated total cost of the basic plan is approximately $1,510,000.  The Parish would fund approximately $1,030,000 of that amount and the State has agreed to fund $480,000.

The Parish funds will come from the public buildings tax approved by the voters many years ago.  In order to include other important features, an additional $700,000 would be necessary.  We are exploring the possibility of additional Parish and State funding to allow the complete project to be undertaken.

In the meantime, certain operational changes have been made to monitor all persons who enter the courthouse.  We realize that this can be a minor inconvenience, but the benefit of doing so outweighs the inconvenience. The project architect has already started the development of the preliminary plans and the target date of final plan completion is September of this year.  Following State approval, we would then put the project out for public bids.

The estimated construction period is 12 to 15 months.