Harrell lobbies for courthouse restoration at Board of Supervisors meeting

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

District 15 Circuit Judge Prentiss Harrell lobbied the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on Monday to lobby for an extensive restoration of the county courthouse.

“The last seven grand jury reports on the courthouse have been negative,” said Harrell, who went on to list bad wiring and “archaic” bathrooms as only a part of the problem.

“When trains go by, the lights shake so bad that you have to stop court,” said Harrell.

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In addition to the cosmetic issues, Harrell also mentioned a woman who recently fell in the courthouse while leaving the witness room, saying that she could have been seriously injured. Harrell added that the building presented difficulties for handicapped visitors.

The Board of Supervisors was recently awarded $600,000 through the Community Development Block Grant to renovate the courthouse to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The grant was awarded on the basis that the county would match the $600,000 with their own money, bringing the total cost of the project to $1.2 million.

Harrell urged the Board of Supervisors not to put “Band-Aids” on the courthouse, and instead lobbied for a restoration that would cost between $5-$7 million.

“We can’t let the courthouse continue to deteriorate to the detriment and peril of the public,” said Harrell, “and if we do, then the circuit judge has responsibilities, and I don’t mean that lightly.”

Board President J. Patrick Lee asked Harrell if the county could face a court order to renovate the courthouse in a worst-case scenario. Harrell confirmed that the possibility did exist.

“There’s a judge in another part of the state that has done that, and it’s quite the controversy,” Harrell said, “I don’t want to fight with you people, I want us to work together on this.”

Chancery Clerk David Earl Johnson stressed that a restored courthouse would be valuable to the community, and added that the Board of Supervisors would not be restoring the courthouse for their own benefit.

“Most of these board members will probably be gone before this project is complete,” said Johnson, “It’s not for me or the supervisors, this is for the general public.”

In other business, the Board received bids for the Millard Wastewater Treatment project. County Engineer Les Dungan discussed plans to renovate the facility, adding that since the construction of the county jail and other buildings, the current treatment facility is at maximum capacity.

The suggested renovations would allow the facility to treat 100,000 gallons of wastewater a day compared to the current 40,000 gallons. The water would also be treated at a higher quality in anticipation of tighter restrictions being placed on the levels of treated wastewater.

At the meeting, the Board also:

–       Re-appointed Albert Lee to County Fire Investigator.

–       Approved the amended paycheck release date from Friday, Nov. 28 to Wednesday, Nov. 26.

–       Approved Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years as county holidays.

–       Approved travel for the Sheriff’s Department to attend training classes in Columbiana, Ala. on Nov. 23-25 and refresher classes in Gulfport from Jan. 4 to Mar. 20, 2015.

The Board of Supervisors will meet again on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 9 a.m. to review the bids for the wastewater treatment plant.