Officials in Avoyelles push to update Courthouse, Tunica-Biloxi helps out
The Avoyelles Parish Courthouse opened its doors in 1927.
"It was built at that time to serve our community and meet the needs of Avoyelles Parish in 1927," explained Judge Kerry Spruill, 12th Judicial District.
Whether as an attorney, or his current position, Judge Spruill has been working there for four decades.
"Forty years doesn't seem like a long time, but over that time the numbers of cases, it’s 12 months of the year,” said Judge Spruill. “Nonstop. And we very large dockets."
While he said there's been a big change in the amount of cases that come through the courthouse, there's not been many updates to the building itself.
"We need larger courtrooms,” explained Judge Spruill. “We need meeting rooms for attorneys to meet with clients. We need places to house inmates on court dates."
One of the things he pointed out is the lack of accessibility to wheelchairs in the courtrooms.
"We have to go up a step to get into the courtroom," expressed Judge Spruill. "We have to place microphones away from the jury for a disabled person to testify."
He also mentioned the cramped areas during the bigger trials.
"This was actually a hallway years ago that was converted to make a courtroom," explained Judge Spruill.
Then there's the bathroom; only one on the entire courtroom floor.
"It accommodates a large number of people,” said Judge Spruill. “Especially during criminal jury week."
Not to mention issues just from the age of the building.
"Leaky ceilings,” explained Judge Spruill. “Cracks in the floors."
So he and other officials in the courthouse are hoping to build something that will better suit the needs of the public. That's where the Tunica-Biloxi tribe and Paragon Casino have stepped up to lend a hand and a $50,000 check.
"This donation allows the funds to go towards some research and get an architect to help plan a new courthouse," said Marshall Ray Sampson, Vice Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.
Sampson said the tribe was happy to help the judicial center, and would gladly do so again.
"Absolutely,” expressed Sampson. We would definitely evaluate it."
While the process may have a long ways to go, Judge Spruill said this is donation goes a long way.
"This facility is well outdated,” expressed Judge Spruill. “And it's time to do something to correct that. Our people deserve better."
The tribe and casino are also giving a big donation to the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury and School Board. Those check donations will be on different dates. But in total, they are donating $150,000, divvied up between all three entities.
Vice chairman Sampson said the one for the school board will be for a reading enrichment program.
"Any time you can help the skill set of a student and help them go on to the next level, or maintain and grow in the reading area, we definitely want to do it,” expressed Sampson. “We have a big heart for our children. They are our future. They're our future politicians, our future business leaders, so anything we can do in the tribe, we're glad to do it."