Historic Beauregard Courthouse dating to 1916 has grand re-opening; Functions will include a sub-station for Sheriff’s Office in east St. Bernard, a library and reception and conference space for lease by parish

Posted: December 14th, 2012 | Filed under: Announcements, In the Community, News Releases, SBSO News

Residents of eastern St. Bernard Parish turned out Thursday, Dec. 13, to applaud the grand re-opening of the historic Beauregard Courthouse at 1201 Bayou Road, built in 1916 and which later served as a school.

Now, the building will function as a sub-station for the Sheriff’s Office in eastern St. Bernard, a library and reception and conference space for lease by parish government.

“This is a magnificent building,’’ that will serve multiple purposes Parish President David Peralta said as a host of parish, state and federal officials held ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Local resident Catherine Serpas, who had pushed for the structure to be used again, cut the ribbon.

Functions will include a library component and will have reception and conference space for lease by the parish, which will help generate some money, Peralta said.

Sheriff James Pohlmann said, “I’m excited because this parish-owned building will also be used to house our sheriff’s sub-station in eastern St. Bernard,’’ offering services that local residents can use in their area instead of traveling many miles to Chalmette.

“We will soon be open here Monday through Friday,’’ staffed by Mary “Wee She’’ Melerine, who currently works from a trailer at Verret, further east, Sheriff Pohlmann said. Residents will be able to go to a nice office to file incident reports with sheriff’s deputies who will be called to meet with them there.

“I think we will be operational in a couple of weeks.’’

Crime victims may also be able to do interviews there with sheriff’s detectives for a follow-up investigation in cases, the sheriff said.

There were a number of people in attendance for the ceremony, including Councilman-at-Large Guy Mc Innis, Councilmen Monty Montelongo, Casey Hunnicutt and Ray Lauga Jr., former Parish President Charles Ponstein, State Representative Ray Garofalo, state District Judge Perry Nicosia, incoming Assessor Jaylynn Turner, Justice of the Peace Bruce Jackson, Constable Tony Guerra, Chamber Executive Director Stephen Reuther, parish Tourism Director Elizabeth “Gidget’’ McDougall and parish Historian Bill Hyland.

The $8 million project began in November 2010 and received a majority of the funding from FEMA, with parish government contributing $158,000.00 towards the project.

President Peralta thanked FEMA and the state GOHSEP for continued partnership and the architect, contractors and parish representatives for doing a great job on the facility. He also recognized the parish Road Department and Maintenance Department for their work in cleaning up the facility.

Eddie Williams with FEMA congratulated the parish and said he had his first project with FEMA in St. Bernard. He said St. Bernard Parish leads the metropolitan area in the recovery effort from Hurricane Katrina.

Jeff Amering with GOHSEP said his organization will continue to work with the parish until all projects are completed.

Hyland gave a short history of the 16,800-square feet three-story masonry building, originally built as the parish courthouse in 1916 but was most recently used as part of the Beauregard Middle School and has been vacant since Katrina.

The site of the building was the place where two other courthouses previously existed in St. Bernard Parish, Hyland said. There was a wooden building there from the 1780s – when the parish was originally settled in its eastern part by Canary Islanders – until 1848, Hyland said. “It was a one-story building on piers,’’ he said.

The owner of the land sold it to the parish for $1 in 1848 to build a more modern courthouse for its time, which burned in 1884, Hyland said.

St. Bernard’s parish seat was officially moved to Chalmette in 1938, Hyland said, and a Courthouse opened there in 1939. That building was closed for repairs after Katrina and later had to be remediated for mold and has been closed more than a year but is scheduled to re-open soon.

The Beauregard Courthouse sustained major damage during Hurricane Katrina, but has since been renovated to bring the building into compliance with current life safety codes. Due to the complexities surrounding the historic condition of the structure, the storm-related damage, and code-related upgrades many challenges were encountered during design and construction.

The project was designed by Beazley Moliere and constructed by Ryan Gootee General Contractors, LLC.