Some still unaware of city hall move

Published 6:11 pm Thursday, April 26, 2007

Picayune’s city hall relocated to make room for a growing population and the need for more office space.

A year later some residents are unaware of the move, and are unaware of the services now offered at the streamlined location.

The move was in the making months before Hurricane Katrina passed through the city, but was not official until February of 2006. City Hall now occupies the old Arizona Chemicals International Paper Company building, said Jon Myers, Picayune’s Director of Public Relations.

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Last week city hall received about 10 calls from residents asking when it moved to the current location and which offices are housed there.

With that move city offices were reduced from about a dozen city buildings to four, city manager Ed Pinero said.

The main push to find a new location came when the city had to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act to make the historic city hall easily accessible for residents with disabilities, which was between 1994 and 1995, said council member Jerry Bounds. The new requirement gave the city a few options, build a new building, revamp the old one or purchase an existing building.

While considering making the necessary changes to the historic city hall council members received cost estimates between $350,000 to $400,000.

The city first decided to look into purchasing the Arizona Chemicals building after they were informed the former owner of the building was down-sizing and had to sell the Picayune location. Initial contact between Arizona Chemicals and the city was to see if the council was interested having some of the furniture in the building donated for city use. As city officials toured the building to look at the furniture they also inspected the building and thought it would be able to suit their needs, with minor modifications, said mayor Greg Mitchell. After the tour the city council inquired about purchasing the building and began negotiations on the purchase price. The city bought the building for $750,000, Mitchell said.

Three city employees played a part in the acquisition of the property, city attorney Nathan Farmer, Diane Miller and former city employee Glade Woods, Mitchell said.

“It’s all been an effort of the city workers and administration working together,” Mitchell said. “The winners of this will be the citizens.”

Before the purchase was finalized the Environmental Protection Agency inspected the site to ensure no adverse health affects would befall city employees since the site was a chemical facility. Mitchell said the EPA gave the site a clean bill of health as it is.

“We wanted to make sure there weren’t any health concerns or anything like that,” Mitchell said.

The purchase of the building gave the city seven buildings and 237 acres of land, Mitchell said. Also on the site are covered areas to park vehicles and equipment and storage space for equipment, Pinero said.

Offices housed in the new city hall location include Public Works with respective mapping and the gas departments, tax office, permits, zoning, accounts payable and receivable, purchasing, safety, payroll, accounting, city manager, mayor, public relations, grants and community development, retirement development, streets and beautification.

The new location has plenty of office space to accommodate the growing need for city services as the population, Mitchell said.

The move out of the historic city hall made room so city offices that were previously renting office space could move to city property. Now that those offices are housed on city owned property it will save the city money in rent and additional utility fees.

Currently Partners for Pearl River County, Economic Development, a Pearl River Community College computer classroom and the Picayune Police Department’s investigations and property and evidence are housed at the historic city hall, Mitchell said.

“That was a great cost savings to us there,” Mitchell said.

Having those offices in the historic city hall ensure one of Picayune’s major landmarks will remain maintained and functional, Mitchell said.

Other city offices are housed at the A.L. Franklin building located on Goodyear Boulevard next to the historic city hall. There the court clerk’s office and the utility department can be accessed on the left and right respectively as customers walk into the building.

Any resident that would like to reach any city office or department has to call only one number, 601-798-9770, and those calls will be directed to the correct office via the receptionist.