Highway Patrol building eyed as need for police space grows

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Brookhaven officials say a need for additional space is theprimary reason behind a proposed plan to relocate the city’s policedepartment to the old Mississippi Highway Patrol substation once anew facility for troopers is completed.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said there is no timetable for themove to the MHP substation on Highway 51. He indicated therelocation could be months away, depending on the completion of anew substation on Highway 84 and the state’s transfer for the oldfacility to the city.

“It’s in the initial phase,” Fernald said of the relocationplans.

Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson said the department’s moveout of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Law Enforcement Complex, whichalso houses the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, would give hisofficers and staff more room to operate.

“We just don’t have any room here. I’m out of room,” Hendersonsaid.

Henderson said his department received no additional space whenthe complex was renovated and a new county jail added several yearsago. While referring to some water leaks in the police work area,the chief indicated the department’s space was outdated.

“We need to come up to 2002,” Henderson said.

Fernald also mentioned financial considerations in relation tothe current complex operating agreement between the city andcounty.

“They’re going to move to a facility we control,” the attorneysaid.

In exchange for the city’s purchase of land for the new MHPsubstation, the city is expected to receive the old substation onHighway 51. The targeted completion date for the new facility is inSeptember.

While the city does not pay “rent” for its space in thegovernment complex and law enforcement complex, it pays 20 percentof the complexes’ operating costs, county officials said.

The city also pays $20 a day for housing of city inmates, andofficials said that would not change with a police department move.City inmates, who have been arrested on felonies, become thecounty’s responsibility once their cases have been bound over forgrand jury consideration, city court officials said.

The city has not given a required official notice of itsintentions to move, although the plan has been mentioned to somecounty officials. Fernald said a notice could not be given untilofficials know when the old substation will be deeded to them.

“We won’t be able to do that until we can access the facility,”Fernald said, referring to process that is involve deed transfer bythe Secretary of State’s office.

Regarding room concerns, Henderson said he needs additionalspace to conduct interviews and store evidence. Current policedepartment space includes a work area, squad room, the chief’soffice, three detectives’ offices and a dispatch room.

“All the officers and personnel are excited about it,” Hendersonsaid of the proposed relocation.

The current MHP substation, which was constructed in the 1950s,has offices for two commanding officers, two for detectives andinvestigators, and one for a secretary. Other areas include adispatch room, driver’s license testing area with supervisor’soffice, a kitchen area, a small barracks, a public affairs officeand a radio/conference room.

Henderson said the substation would need some remodeling forpolice department use, but he did not speculate on a cost. With thefacility already used for law enforcement, Fernald said costs wouldbe nominal.

“They’ve got parking and everything they need,” Fernald said,adding that the substation is also in a good location.

A police department move would leave the current space vacant.County officials indicated they had no immediate need for thespace.

“It’s going to be excess space for us,” said David Fields,county administrator.

Sheriff Lynn Boyte said a new police department location hasbeen talked about in the past. What to do with old space would havebe decided by supervisors and aldermen, but he said it would bepremature to speculate now.

Boyte said his department is not in need of the space.

“With the additions we made in the last two years with the jail,I think we’re comfortable with what we have and it meets ourneeds,” Boyte said.

A pending city annexation also factors into police departmentplans. A second facility will be needed because of that, Hendersonsaid.

“We still were going to have to have a precinct somewhere else,”said Henderson, adding that no decisions have been made as far aspossible locations.

Henderson brushed aside the possibility of a new locationaffecting police service. Pointing out that how officers cover thecity will not change, the chief said a department’s location has nobearing on service.

“It’s not going to matter. We’re going to provide the sameservice in the same time frame,” Henderson said.