Ground breaking held for new Chimney Square county building

Published 12:58 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

Three years after the building was torn down, ground was broken to rebuild Chimney Square.

Some mixed emotions are shared by members of the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors. However, the consensus is good that the building is being rebuilt at the old location.

Only one supervisor, District III Supervisor Hudson Holliday, had objections to the placement of the building. The other four members of the board found the occasion to be an accomplishment. Even two members of the local Bar Association, Buddy McDonald and Gerald Cruthird, are looking forward to utilizing the Chancery Court court rooms that will be in the building.

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After Hurricane Katrina damaged the building in 2005, it was torn down in November of 2006. Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will be used to rebuild the building, which housed a number of county offices and offices for the Department of Human Services and Department of Transportation. Back in the 1980s, the building was a blanket factory, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin. Then, in about 1993, the county purchased the building and renovated it to provide county services to residents in and around Picayune.

Now that ground has been broken, construction of the new foundation should begin with in the next few weeks, said architect Carl Franco. Construction time for the building will take about a year.

“I’m hoping by this time next year we’ll be cutting a ribbon,” District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith.

District II Supervisor Charles Culpepper said when he ran for office he promised his voters that he would work to put the building back where it was, now he has lived up to his promise.

Smith said he has talked to his constituents, who indicated to him they wanted the building built back where it was.

Chancery Clerk David Earl Johnson said with the inclusion of Chancery Court offices in the building, residents of Picayune will be able to take care of most of their Chancery Court needs closer to home. Those needs could include filing deeds, paying child support and attending court. He plans to have at least one clerk, if not two, in the Picayune office. Johnson hopes by the time the building is complete his office will be able to offer electronic filing for deeds and deeds of trust.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee said years of work, both by the previous administration and the current administration, was involved in rebuilding the historic structure.

“I hope it’s just one of many projects we’ll be able to achieve before our term is up,” Lee said.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales, who is the only current board member to be part of the previous administration, said the ground breaking on Friday was long overdue. It has been the desire of the board to provide county services to the majority of the county’s population, which resides in the south end of the county.

Hales said there has been some resistance from people about building the structure back where it was, which included rumors about relocating the county courthouses to Picayune. Hales believes rebuilding it in the previous location is the right thing to do.

“It should have been done. You’re simply rebuilding something that was destroyed by the hurricane,” Hales said.

Only one member of the board expressed reservations about rebuilding the structure in it’s old location, Holliday, who also was the only supervisor not to attend the ground breaking.

“That’s the reason I didn’t come. I’m not a hypocrite,” Holliday said.

While he said it’s great that south end residents will have access to county services, he still thinks it’s being built in the wrong place. His reasons include a lack of parking at the old site, close proximity of students around people who would be attending court and the inability to do any future expansions.

“I think it’s folly to put it back where it is,” Holliday said.

An alternative location proposed by Holliday is where Picayune’s city hall is located. Holliday said the city offered to trade the Chimney Square lot in exchange for about ten acres near city hall. If that had been the case, the county could have built a single story building, had lots of parking and possibly had room for future expansion.

With Chimney Square being rebuilt near three Picayune schools, Holliday is concerned about convicted felons or people on trial being near by.

“I don’t even intend to put my name on the corner stone. When some kid gets raped down there by some trustee, don’t call me,” Holliday said.

Another contention Holliday has deals with the lack of Department of Human Services offices in the building. Now he says the county will have to build them their own offices in Millard, far away from the majority of the county.

“They didn’t back up and look at that building objectively and I did,” Holliday said.