County courthouse seeks leak fixes, records restoration gaining some ground

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

Water leaks in the Pearl River County Chancery Clerk’s Office have been an ongoing problem, threatening the preservation of county records. Photos by Julia Arenstam

Water leaks in the Pearl River County Chancery Clerk’s Office have been an ongoing problem, threatening the preservation of county records.
Photos by Julia Arenstam

During Tuesday’s Pearl River County Board of Supervisors meeting, Chancery Clerk Melinda Bowman brought issues concerning ongoing water leaks to the Board’s attention.
Bowman said office staff discovered another leak in the southwest corner of the vault, where land deeds and other county records are stored.
The leak, she said, appears to be surrounding a pipe that borders the storage location of historic county maps.
Bowman said she thinks the pipe leads down to the computer service room.
Other leaks in the Chancery Clerk’s office are growing, including increased water stains on the ceiling, evidence of water in some of the plaster walls where paint has begun to erode and electrical sockets emitting intermittent sparks, Bowman said.
County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said some leaks in the chimney, which is part of a wall in the Chancery Clerk’s office, have been repaired.
However, Lumpkin said there is a possible crack in the chimney, which requires repairs.
Bowman said that last week office staff also found standing water in the basement where other records are stored.
She encouraged the Board to visit the office and look at the damage.
In September, Bowman requested $50,000 for record restoration, the same amount that was afforded the previous Chancery Clerk, previous coverage states. However, Bowman said the Board cut that budget in half, allotting $26,000 for the 2017 fiscal year.
In November, the Board approved a motion to hire an independent firm to index scanned documents back to 1961 and scan additional documents back to 1945, previous coverage states. Bowman said that work has been completed, but if more funds were allocated she could hire the firm to scan more documents.
During Tuesday’s Board meeting, audience member Isaac “Ike” Lewis commended Bowman for bringing the leaks to the Board’s attention.
Lewis stressed the importance of preserving the historical significance of the building and the records it houses, but the county also needs to start planning for the future.
“I know we can’t talk about raising taxes too much, but we need a courthouse and we need to start planning some way to do that,” Lewis said. “I know we’re spending money today to do repairs on that [building], but we need to spend some time trying to do something to raise funds, borrow funds, raise taxes or whatever it takes.”
District I Supervisor Donald Hart said the Board is in the beginning stages of creating a solution for these problems.
The county recently acquired property adjacent to the existing courthouse. The Board discussed plans to build additional county facilities on the property, according to previous coverage.
“It’s not going to be an easy fix; some tough decisions are going to be made in order to get it done,” Hart said.
“It is refreshing to see someone come before this Board that’s interested about the future,” Board Vice President Hudson Holliday said. “We have so many people that show up…that don’t want us to do anything; don’t want us to spend any money, don’t want us to build any infrastructure…Thank you for taking issue to come up here.”
The Board took no action on these matters but discussions about possible are expected to continue in the coming months while renovations to the courtroom are still underway.

Photo by Julia Arenstam

Photo by Julia Arenstam

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About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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