County hires engineer for upgrades

Published 9:50 am Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Bay St. Louis engineering firm has been hired to determine the feasibility and cost of upgrading the Warren County Courthouse to make it more handicap accessible, including relocating the building’s handicap ramp.

The supervisors Monday hired Compton Engineering of Bay St. Louis to evaluate and assess the building’s facilities.

The supervisors are considering applying for a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant for public facilities from the Mississippi Development Authority. The board in February hired the Ferguson Group LLC of Madison to administer the grant. Compton’s fee will be determined by the grant terms, he said.

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“This is a 50-50 match grant, and it’s money to allow courthouses across America to become more ADA compliant,” County Administrator John Smith said. “We are compliant on the handicap ramp, and then we have to do some upgrades in the elevator with signage — a sign in braille so the blind can read it — and then we have to put a telephone in the elevator. And we have to have a handicap bathroom. We’re trying to assess all that.

“If we have to spend $500,000 to fix the elevator, we couldn’t do that,” he said. “We’re going to get a plan of action to the board and show them how we’re going to spend that money.”

Compton, Smith said, will look at the courthouse to determine what the board can affordably do to make improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He said Warren County is not the only county seeking funds.

“The state has got about $11 million, and that’s got to be spread around among all the counties that are competing for this money. We may not get it,” he said.

Smith said he hopes that by moving the handicap ramp from the north side of the courthouse to the building’s rear parking lot, he could improve access to the rear of the courthouse by improving the bridge that crosses a sunken delivery alley.

He said the handicap ramp at the north end of the courthouse is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, adding the only change is to relocate it to the back, or east side, of the courthouse.

“I could allow the general public and the handicap citizens to come in through the back of the courthouse,” he said. “That way, it would secure in my mind the courthouse for courthouse security. A person with a wheelchair will have to have assistance getting through the doors. I want to see what changes we can make.”

The topic of relocating the handicap ramp was initially discussed at a Jan. 21 meeting with Steve Markert, marshal in charge of security at the Carroll Gartin Justice building in Jackson, which houses the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Markert suggested closing the couthouse’s main door that faces Cherry Street and building a covering for an alleyway leading to the bottom floor entrance, used often for taking jail inmates to trial. Closing the north and south basement entrances to the building was also recommended.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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