April 8, 2015 06:07 PM

The rendering above depicts the Downtown Development Authority’s vision for the Jefferson-Main corridor; the plan includes renovating and remodeling the current parish courthouse instead of building a new one. Read our April story, “Main Street Blues,” to which Judge Edwards takes exception here.
In response to your 1 April 2015 article entitled “Main Street Blues,” it appears that the staff of The Independent has accepted the framing of this dispute about the public good as an “either/or”
conflict between Mr. Joey Durel and the Downtown Development Authority on one side and the judges and clerk of court on the other. I completely disagree with this characterization. The actual problem is government-created urban blight. LCG has not properly maintained two of its buildings and these buildings are widely reported to be safety hazards and eyesores.

Judge Jules D. Edwards

Regarding the current parish courthouse, Mr. Durel has engaged in a sustained campaign to delay action on requested courthouse repairs and distract attention from that delay with a series of changing promises of different types of courthouse improvements. I can only assume that action explains why your staff has accepted his framing of this issue. The reality is we have an opportunity for a “both-and” type of resolution of the twin problems of government-produced urban blight downtown and LCG’s failure to comply with the state law that requires the parish government to provide a good and sufficient courthouse (LA RS 33:4713 & LA RS 33:4715). The beauty of this type of resolution is this approach can produce a good and sufficient courthouse and also increase mixed residential and commercial facilities downtown without using imminent domain to force the sale of private property.

Keep in mind an outside agency has studied all locations for a new courthouse and determined that the location of the old federal courthouse is the most feasible location. In brief, this is a listing of the required steps:

1) Immediately tear down the old federal courthouse and temporarily use it as either a green park or a gravel filled parking lot, thereby preserving the land for use as a parish courthouse once funds become available.

2) Continue the renovations to the current parish courthouse with the view of converting it to a new parish government building. (This is the currently declared LCG plan)

3) Once we have a new parish courthouse LCG can sell the current parish government building located at 1010 Lafayette St., to a private developer for the production of a mixed residential and commercial facility downtown.

There is no need for Mr. Joey Durel to instigate a dispute between the Downtown Development Authority on one side and the judges and clerk of court on the other. I am confident that the DDA, judges, clerk of court and the majority of the citizens of our community want a public policy that will provide for the public good. I am confident LCG can remove its urban blight and facilitate additional mixed-use (residential-commercial) facilities downtown. There is no need to instigate an unnecessary and divisive “either-or” political squabble.

Jules D. Edwards, Judge, Lafayette

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