Post-Katrina courthouse renovation complete in Hancock Co.

By Al Showers - bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A $7.7 million renovation and expansion project just wrapped up on one of Hancock County's best known historic landmarks.

The Hancock County Courthouse will officially open to the public this Monday. The building has been closed since Hurricane Katrina put it out of commission nearly four years ago.

"I can't tell you how excited we are about it," Circuit Clerk Karen Ruhr said. "It's just really shaped up nice and it's almost like coming home."

Ruhr and her staff spent the day moving into their new offices. A classroom size trailer has been home for most county government offices for the past four years.

"To make the move from the trailers to this beautiful, modern, 100-year-old building, certainly it's an exciting time," Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar said.

The historic building has been restored to its original grandeur. Many of the architectural features of the building that were covered up during previous renovations have been brought back.

"If you roll the clock back 100 years to 1911, almost a spitting image picture of what these folks must have seen the first time they walked into this courtroom when it was first built," Kellar said.

A 9,000 square foot addition on the back of the building almost doubles the size of the facility.

"Allows space for probation officers, the District Attorney's office, witness rooms that we didn't have before, space for the public defender to be able to talk to his clients, a court reporter's office that we didn't have," Ruhr said. "So it's added some things that, before, we just kind of put them where ever we could find a place to put them."

The additional space will now allow the main courtroom to be just that.

"We now have a full size courtroom, which, in the past, we've only had half of a courtroom," Ruhr said. "Before, we shared this courtroom with the Board of Supervisors. Half of it was the boardroom and half of it was a courtroom. Now we have a courtroom that can seat around 150 people. Before, we were pressed to get 75 people in the courtroom. I'm very proud of it."

A ceremonial ribbon cutting will be held for the courthouse building Saturday, August 8th. Visitors will be given tours of the facility from 5:30pm until 7:30pm.

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