- Associated Press - Sunday, February 26, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans’ criminal courthouse will be closed until March 6 as crews remove dangerous lead-based paint from the building’s first floor.

Judicial Administrator Robert Kazik told NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune (https://bit.ly/2kUVwOG) the building was scheduled to be closed Monday through Wednesday for the Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday holidays. But he says contractors were given the rest of the week to work on the project.

The abatement work is part of a large-scale construction and makeover project underway at the courthouse, which opened in 1931. The project at the city-owned building is to include construction of two new courtrooms, new accommodations for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office’s courtroom personnel, and new facilities for the drug and domestic violence courts that are currently conducted off-site.

The target date for completion is Spring 2019.

But refurbishing a nearly century-old building in New Orleans is not without its complications. Air quality testing stations popped up around the building on Thursday. Results of those tests are not yet available, Kazik said, but he confirmed testing measures include efforts to detect potentially unhealthy levels of lead, asbestos or other hazardous materials.



Kazik said next week’s lead paint removal is to be performed throughout the building’s first floor, where age, sunlight, water damage and other factors have contributed to numerous areas with cracked or peeling paint and plaster. He said abatement contractors will tent off the areas and remove the lead paint using a liquid-based technique intended to prevent airborne dust and particles.

Most of the courthouse’s 12 criminal district section judges already had planned to close their courtrooms next week, Kazik said. No jurors were scheduled to report for trials and a new grand jury is to be empaneled but that group is expected to be sworn in at the office of District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Magistrate court functions, where newly arrested persons make their first court appearances to have bond amounts set, will be conducted at the Orleans Justice Center jail facility during the courthouse closure, Kazik said.

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