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Lott tells DDT he did not push Cleveland for court site

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott says he has not been involved in the site selection for a new federal court building in the Mississippi Delta.

In a recent interview with the Delta Democrat Times newspaper, Lott, R-Miss., said there was no truth to rumors he had asked the General Services Administration to conduct a cost study of sites in Cleveland.

GSA officials have said the current federal court building on Main Street in Greenville, built more than 50 years ago, must be replaced due to security concerns.

The agency has been conducting a feasibility study of Greenville sites for more than a year. Greenville leaders and community members last year opposed efforts by U.S. District Court Judge Allen Pepper to have his hometown of Cleveland considered for the new court building.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., whose congressional district includes the Delta’s Washington and Bolivar counties, told the newspaper recently that Lott, because of a long-standing friendship with Pepper, had pressured GSA to conduct the Cleveland cost study.

“I did not and I think that y’all actually did a Freedom of Information check to see if there was any indication to that effect and found that I had not been involved in that,” Lott said in the phone interview.

The newspaper said that it did not find Lott’s name on any documents related to the location of a new federal building.

“Judges can make requests, members of Congress can have an influence, but these things should be based on careful analysis and study of the current situation; what’s needed in terms of where these centers are located,” Lott said. “While Judge Allen Pepper obviously is a very good longtime friend of mine, this is not the type of the matter I get involved in.”

In response to a question, Lott said it would serve no purpose for him to give a site preference now “any more than it would serve a positive purpose for my colleague in the Congress to suggest that I had something to do with it when he didn’t know whether I did or didn’t.”