Board holds workshop for annex project

Published 7:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors held a special workshop Wednesday morning to discuss the $13 million proposal to construct two courthouse annexes.
After discussions reportedly grew tense during last week’s meeting, the Board decided to hold a workshop to further discuss the contentions.
Wednesday’s workshop did not involve action by the Board, but provided an outlet for discussion of ways to reduce the project’s budget by about $1 million, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said.
Board members planned to meet individually with the architects from Landry and Lewis, the Hattiesburg firm hired to draft the project, after the July 4th holiday, Lumpkin said.
For a number of years, the county has looked at possible solutions to its aging buildings, including using other county-owned sites and a constructing a single building behind the courthouse, Lumpkin said.
Other discussions held Wednesday concerned whether to build the annexes in two phases, on another lot, or scale back the amenities, he said.
Ultimately, issues were raised about each proposal, but overall, Lumpkin said it was a “good discussion.”
Even if the Board made a decision today, it would take at least four months before the project could be advertised for bids, he said.
Yet, if the Board doesn’t go ahead with the proposal in the next six months, interest rates could increase, Lumpkin said.
Right now, those rates could be below 3.5 percent, he said.
Though Board members do not agree on exactly what must be done to meet the needs of county employees, Lumpkin said it’s fair to say all five supervisors agree the county has to do something.
“We can’t wait, we have to decide something in the near future,” he said.
The Board aims to complete the project without raising taxes, Lumpkin said.
This would be done through refinancing the existing debt service and lowering the budget by $1 million. Those moves would reduce payments by $50,000-$60,000 a year, he said.
In recent weeks, the Board received pushback for not using the money planned for the annexes to fix the county’s decaying roads and infrastructure.
“I do understand, I don’t take it lightly that we’re spending money on buildings,” Lumpkin said in response. “From a county employee’s perspective, county workers put in 40 plus hours a week in badly built buildings that were built 100 years ago next year.”
Lumpkin said one of the most common complaints is that the only people who go to the courthouse are criminals. He rebutted that statement by saying, “that’s the function of county government, and that’s not the only people that come up here just because you renew your license or your car tag online and you never come up here. There’s a lot that goes on up here other than just court.”
Board members will continue to debate the issue in the coming months and present their questions about the project to architects on July 11 in individual meetings, he said.
Part of the current proposal involves selling the office on Main Street currently occupied by the Tax Assessor/Collector’s office.
Lumpkin said he doesn’t know how much that building will be worth, but the sale price was not factored into the overall cost/revenue for the project.
The Board will meet again for a regular meeting on July 5 at 9 a.m.

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About Julia Arenstam

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