Aldermen rethinking police dept. plans

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 1, 2006

A plan to relocate the Brookhaven Police Department to the oldMississippi Highway Patrol building appears to be on hold afteraldermen voted Tuesday to look into the possibility of selling theHighway 51 property.

The possible sale came up during a special board meeting inwhich Mayor Bob Massengill was seeking board approval to havemechanical and electrical plans developed for the BPD move. Thecost for the work would be $5,000, and the city would not need anarchitect or engineer when the project is pursued.

“I think it would be money well spent,” Massengill said.

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Aldermen were receptive to the mayor’s request, but Alderman atlarge Les Bumgarner suggested the board consider selling the MHPproperty. The board approved a modified version of the mayor’srequest but the city will also have the property appraised.

“We won’t do anything until we get it appraised,” Massengillsaid.

After the meeting, Bumgarner expressed concerns about the cityputting a lot of money into an old building. He said the MHPproperty is in a prime location.

“If we can generate enough money from selling off the propertyto build a new building, I think we’d be better off,” saidBumgarner, who advocated continuing to have a centrally locatedpolice department.

Officials have been eying the police department’s move to theMHP building since the city purchased property on Highway 84 for anew MHP substation. In exchange, the city acquired the Highway 51property.

Massengill said the building has deteriorated since MHP movedout four years ago.

“Nobody has been in that building since February 2002, and itlooks like it,” the mayor said.

An architect’s estimate to renovate the building was $275,000,the mayor said.

Massengill said the city budgeted $125,000 for a BPD move. Hesaid all of that could be used for electrical and mechanicalupgrades and for roof repairs.

The city is also seeking a $35,000-$40,000 grant for thebuilding. Massengill said that could assist with interiorneeds.

When contacted, Police Chief Pap Henderson said the move to theMHP building was not something he campaigned for, but was anopportunity that presented itself several years ago. He said hewould have to talk to aldermen about their ideas regarding the MHPbuilding, but he was in need of more space for his department -whether through renovations of an existing building or a newone.

“We need the room and we’re going to need more room,” Hendersonsaid. “We can’t keep putting it off.”

In other building-related matters Tuesday, Chancery ClerkTillmon Bishop asked if the board would join the county inexploring the costs of paving two parking areas near the governmentcomplex. The city owns the lot north of the complex while thecounty owns most of the land area just west of the complex.

Bishop said the county was going see how much it would cost topave its area and questioned whether the city wanted to pave itsarea at the same time. Aldermen were receptive, but said they haveother projects to consider now.