The Louisville Metro Public Works Department estimates it will cost $3.9 million to renovate parts of the Hall of Justice in order to fix its outdated escalator system.
The city owns the courthouse, which first opened in 1975, and leases it to the state. But Metro Government is responsible for its upkeep, including the four escalators that have been prone to malfunction or shut down recently.
Among the public offices that are housed in the downtown building are Jefferson County’s district courts, county attorney’s office and circuit court clerk.
“It’s a piece of equipment that has gone through its useful life,” Public Works spokesman Harold Adams told WFPL News.
“The outlines are that we’re looking at a project that will be approximately $3.9 million in total, including a little over $1 million specifically to replace the escalators,” he says.
Public Works officials told council members the project could take nearly two years to complete. The other costs associated with the facelift are due to building modifications to accommodate the new escalators.
“It’s a heavily trafficked building and we’ve got a situation where we have a piece of equipment with a life expectancy of 25 years that’s been around for 37 years. We’ve entered a time where we’re getting frequent break downs, which is quite disruptive to the people who have to use that building,” says Adams.
When the escalators are shut down, the Hall of Justice’s lower levels are served by two other stairwells and two elevators. Given the high volume of residents and public officials who use the facility, its something that’s become more than just a nuisance.
“We have heard frequently from users over in the Hall of Justice that about 20 percent of the time the escalator is down,” says Councilwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, who chairs the budget committee. “So our hope is that the facilities and the administrative courts have come together to work out and find a solution for this so that the most heavily used building in Jefferson County is user friendly for the public.”
But Butler says she hopes the Administrative Office of the Courts will pitch in some of the funding, and that it’s unclear how much the council can contribute. She adds all Metro facilities need to be kept up to date but that it’s up to Mayor Greg Fischer’s office to prioritize the cost.
“This is something we’ll have to work with the administration on,” says Butler. “It’s ultimately their call as they prepare next year’s budget. But if it’s something that’ll need emergency repair we’ll certainly work with them anyway we can to make sure it gets done.”
Other options Public Works officials discussed with council members included taking out the escalator system altogether while expanding the stairways and elevators.