County Courthouse to become fully handicap accessible

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2016

After more than five years of planning, renovations are underway at the Pearl River County Courthouse in Poplarville.
The process began after the U.S. Justice Department inspected county buildings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said.
The ADA ensures handicapped individuals have equal access to public programs and services, the ADA website states.
After the inspections, the county reached an agreement with the Justice Department to bring the courthouse into compliance with those regulations, Lumpkin said.
A $600,000 matching community development block grant from the Mississippi Development Authority was awarded to the county in 2014, giving the project a total budget of $1.2 million, previous coverage states.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors hired Landry and Lewis Architects and BW Sullivan Contracting to conduct the work, Lumpkin said.
The work entails renovating existing public restrooms to provide more space for wheelchairs and add handrails for safety, Lumpkin said.
The restrooms will also undergo minor cosmetic renovations that include fresh paint and new fixtures and toilets, he said.
Work to install a new handicap ramp for easier entry into the building and more handicap parking is near completion, Lumpkin said.
The front door will be upgraded to open and close with little resistance, he said.
However the original doorknobs inside the halls will remain in place as part of regulations from the Mississippi Department of History and Archives due to the historic nature of the courthouse. Final plans for the project are the result of compromises with the Justice Department and the MDHA, which often contradicted each other, Lumpkin said.
Renovations to the second floor courtroom will remove the raised floor, add two restrooms, install a sound system capable of using headphones for the hearing and visually impaired and add wheelchair accessible seating, Lumpkin said.
The elevator already installed in the building is ADA compliant and as such required no renovations, he said.
Contracts with BW Sullivan state the project is to be completed by June of 2017, Lumpkin said.
Pearl River County Circuit Court hearings have been relocated to the two courtrooms at the county building in Picayune, Lumpkin said.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors Boardroom is also being utilized to ensure day-to-day operations are not interrupted, he said.
Meanwhile, other county buildings remain non-compliant with ADA regulations, Lumpkin said, but getting them up to code would be more costly and inefficient than building new structures.
The purchase of empty lots on the north and south side of the courthouse took place as part of plans for future construction of two annexes, Lumpkin said.
The Board is still discussing those plans, he said, but hopes those projects would start in the next few years.

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About Julia Arenstam

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