COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - Covington residents are expressing concerns about the future of one of the most prominent properties in town. The site, which served which served as the Covington Courthouse for more than 150 years, will likely go on the auction block next year.
The current building was built in 1959 by Superdome architect August Perez. But before that, it housed an older courthouse that sat on the site for more than 100 years.
"We knew at some point it would become available," said Covington Mayor Mike Cooper.
Court functions moved out 14 years ago, and now St. Tammany Parish is building a new 911 center in Lacombe.
"Right now we're doing the beginning of the research to surplus this property," said parish spokesman Ron Simpson.
At 31,000 square feet., the building is massive. It formally housed courtrooms and currently houses the emergency operations center and 911. If the building is sold intact, the new owner could be the proud owner of a 20-cell jail.
Covington officials are forming a seven-member committee to explore new uses for the building.
"I've been asked to put together an advisory committee to make some recommendations," said Covington Council Chairman Patrick McMath.
Cost could be a factor.
"We have to get fair market value for it," said Simpson.
"Based on other sales in recent years, I would think the appraisal of this building would be a million or more, and finding that money would be a task for us," Mayor Cooper said.
The old courthouse has been underutilized in recent years, and whether it stays or goes, all parties agree it should be something to enhance Covington's unique downtown.
"We'd like to see something down there to draw more business to downtown Covington. It's already becoming somewhat of a destination, said Torre Solazzo, whose restaurant Del Porto is across the street.
And most say they want that trend to continue.
Covington's mayor says the new advisory committee will include seven council appointees and two mayoral choices. They are expected to make recommendations for city officials to either accept or reject.