County officials reopen renovated courtroom
Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Clarification: In the Aug. 22 edition of the Item, we reported that no renovations have been completed at the Pearl River County Courthouse for 96 years. County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin has since clarified that no renovations of the same scale as the one’s recently completed have been completed in that time. Smaller renovations were done in the 70s, 80s and 90s, including the refurbishment of the courthouse by county employees, adding space to the first floor and relocating the Pearl River County Tax Office from what is now the men’s bathroom, Lumpkin said. This is the first time that the courthouse has been ADA compliant, he said, taking significant steps to renovate the courtroom to create easy access for those who are disabled.
Pearl River County Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell opened court yesterday in the newly renovated courtroom in Poplarville.
For 96 years, renovations have bypassed the historic room where justice has been decided for generations, Harrell said.
“History is preserved in this great old lady and we need to honor that, we do honor that,” he said.
The last renovations to the courthouse took place 96 years ago and were approved by county employees with last names like Smith, Clark, Fornea, Stuart and Lumpkin.
The most recent renovation process, which was completed this year, began in 2015 after Harrell and Judge Anthony Mozingo filed a court order in January of that year stating preliminary plans had to be implemented within 90 days, according to previous coverage.
The Board was later awarded $600,000 through a 50 percent matching Community Development Block grant from the Mississippi Development Authority, previous coverage states.
The renovations included repairing the ceiling, fixing roof damage, and bringing the courthouse into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
During the renovations, Circuit Court was held in the Picayune courtroom, causing some reported scheduling and space conflicts, previous coverage states.
“This is the proper venue for justice to be brought into,” Harrell said.
As he spoke about the many benefits of the renovations and the legacy of the building, a man pushed a wheelchair-bound woman into the courtroom.
“Someone was just wheeled in that door,” Harrell said as he noticed the woman. “That could not have happened before.”
The renovations also included the installation of technology that Harrell said was on par with federal courts along the Gulf Coast.
In the past, lawyers coming to the Pearl River County courthouse have taken notice of the lack of technology.
“Particularly young lawyers, they expect it,” he said.
Harrell thanked the Board for their wisdom and economic prudence to complete the project.
Harrell and Christina Holcomb, president of the Pearl River County Bar Association, read aloud resolutions regarding the work and expressed their thanks to the county leaders for completing the project as promised.
Pearl River County Board of Supervisors President Sandy Kane Smith said he’s been hammered many times about the project, “but today, I’m proud to say we’ve addressed this problem…I apologize for not doing it sooner.”
Following the ceremony, Harrell recessed court before beginning the new term later that morning.