Two plans proposed for old school

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2000

WESSON — Town officials and residents gathered Monday night tohear two proposals for the Old Wesson School.

Representatives from SPACE Planners and Architects presented anidea that would bring almost 40 low income apartments to thedilapidated school, while a Copiah-Jefferson Regional Libraryrepresentative talked of using the school for a multi-purposecultural arts center.

If the school is converted into apartments, it would housearound 36, mainly for elderly people who are able to take care ofthemselves.

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“The person still has to have the ability to enjoy life,” saidSPACE architect Walter Meredith. “They’ve got to be able tomaintain their apartment.”

SPACE representatives also pointed out other strict rules thatwould be in place for residents.

Children will more than likely not live in the apartments, asonly two people are allowed in a one bedroom, and four people in atwo bedroom, said Roy Fair, property manager.

“There could be children in there in certain cases, but it’s notlikely,” he added.

The apartments would be filled by taking the lowest incomes on awaiting list first, regardless of when a person applied.

Rent has not been figured out, but representatives said it woulddepend upon the monthly note the investor would have to pay. Fairsaid the rent would be around 25 percent of a resident’sincome.

The estimated cost of the project is around $1.7 million, afterthe complete renovation of the 1889 building.

Local residents were concerned about how much the historicalbuilding would change, and SPACE representative assured them thatthe historical value of the old school would not be tampered withduring the renovation.

“For us to be able to collect the tax credit off the historicbuilding, we have to maintain that historic preservation,” saidMeredith. “We’re not going to mess that building up.”

The other option of the Old Wesson School is to use it as acultural arts center, featuring a library and museum.

“You have lots of various community needs that could be met byusing the building,” said Paul Cartwright, library director.

The mayor and board of alderman had previously entertained thatidea, allowing Cartwright to have the property appraised in orderto apply for grants and ask for funding from the statelegislature.

Board members, though, expressed concerns about the project notbeing fully funded. Cartwright explained that at this point thegrants would not completely pay for the project, but if thebuilding was listed on the state’s endangered historic places list,it could bring more funding. The list will be announced in April2001.

After listening to both proposals, the mayor decided not to makeany decision on the matter because Ward Four Alderman Hollis CowenJr. was not present.

“We will get all of the board members together and discuss itand make a decision… some time in the next couple of weeks,” saidWesson Mayor David McGee.