CHALMETTE, La.-- It's moving day at the St. Bernard Courthouse, as the 34th Judicial Court gets ready for a return to its old home.
As one of the parish's iconic structures, the St. Bernard courthouse will finally reopen Monday. It comes seven years after Hurricane Katrina swamped it with water and three years after a costly renovation began on it.
'I won't believe it until I'm actually in it,' said St. Bernard Judge Jacques Sanborn. 'It's been three years. It was supposed to be a one year project.'
That's not how it turned out, though. The Art Deco courthouse, built in 1939, went through quite a lot in the past seven years.
The courthouse is elevated about four feet. Despite that, during Hurricane Katrina about four feet of water managed to get into the building. A month after the storm, everyone who worked in the courthouse came back to work there, but by 2010, they had to move back out again, because mold had spread throughout the building.
The renovations took far longer than expected. In the meantime, court was held at a shopping center, with cramped courtrooms separated from one another by cafes and shops.
'We had to find some place to operate,' Judge Sanborn said. 'And it hasn't been a real pleasant experience.'
Newly-elected Clerk of Court Randy Nunez said he is looking forward to being back in the building where he once practiced law-- and from where he will now oversee the continued digitizing of St. Bernard records.
'Right now, we're so displaced we're spread out among three or four buildings within about a two block span of each other,' he said.
Nunez sees the courthouse's reopening as a symbol of St. Bernard's resiliency.
'I think once that happens it will be another step in the complete recovery from the devastation we experienced in Katrina,' Nunez said. 'I think this is a good step, a big step.'
The majority of the renovations to the courthouse, which cost nearly $14 million, were paid for mostly by FEMA because it involved Hurricane Katrina-related damage.