Looking to the future of Pearl River County

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2017

By Daniel Wise

The Pearl River county courthouse in Poplarville was constructed in 1918. I have been told by a few sources that the original cost 99 years ago was around $150,000. For perspective, the average annual wage in the United States that year was $1518 (and  I would be willing to bet the average wage in rural Mississippi was even a bit lower).

In 1920 the population of the county was 15,648.

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I ask myself, what group of forward thinking citizens in the early 1900’s had the courage and forethought to spend $150,000 ($2,643,416 in today’s dollars) on a county courthouse? That beautiful building they constructed has served us well for almost a century.

Ever since I can remember renovating or expanding the current courthouse has been a hot topic. Currently the board of supervisors has a master plan to add some modern spaces next to the existing courthouse, renovate and repurpose the historic courthouse  and consolidate many of the county offices into one area while leaving room for future growth and development. As I spent some time going over the plans,

I can see this will not only solve many current issues, but prepares us for the inevitable growth to come to our county. If you have not seen the plans, I encourage you to do so.

So why are we not moving forward on this issue you may ask? Good question.

The current estimate for the two building option is 12.4 million dollars.

That is a big number. Keep in mind we spent $9,000,000 on the jail in 2002 ($12,233,000 in 2017 dollars).

I read that some would rather us build 1 new building, which certainly would alleviate some of our space issues, but clearly not all and that does not address future growth. Note, the 1 building option would cost us between 8.1 and 8.4 million dollars.

Based on my discussions and research, we could go ahead with the two building plan without increasing taxes on the citizens of the county. This would be on a 25 year note. This project would consolidate all the various departments into one area, and expand the quality and efficiency of our county services. If the current board can lock in the rate and provide this much needed improvement without raising taxes, I say do it. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to prepare our county for the next 100 years. Let’s not waste it.