Area wildife office move unexpected, leader says

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lincoln County supervisors’ decision to force a state districtwildlife office to move out of a county-owned building wasunexpected and will cause some inconvenience for area sportsmen, astate official said Wednesday.

“We didn’t want to leave,” said Lane Ball, Southern Regionadministrator for the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries andPark, Wednesday while speaking to the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club.

In January, supervisors voted to not renew the state wildlifeagency’s lease on the South Second Street building that has servedas a district office for approximately 12 years.

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When contacted for comment later Wednesday, SupervisorsPresident the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson cited tax assessor’s office andother county-related space concerns for the board’s decision.

“We needed the space. We didn’t have enough space,” Wilsonsaid.

In addition to tax office needs, Wilson mentioned thepossibility of records storage in the county building. Countyofficials said they did not have a cost estimate for renovating thebuilding for county use and were unsuccessful in seeking federalfunding help for the project.

When asked if other space could have been found for the taxoffice, Wilson said supervisors looked at the situation and “wewent from there.”

Originally, Ball said, district office personnel were going tohave to move out by June 30 when the lease expired. Supervisorsinitially rejected a three-month extension, but later agreed to oneafter some in-person negotiations, Ball said.

“We’ll be here in Brookhaven until the end of September,” Ballsaid.

After learning of the lease cancellation, Pike Countysupervisors were eager to offer wildlife officials help in findinga new location for the district office, Ball said, Theadministrator said the district office will likely end up at theold lodge at Percy Quin State Park, although the building will needsome renovations and there will be some logistical issues toaddress due to the move.

For Lincoln County residents, Ball said the move would have noeffect on operations at Lake Lincoln State Park.

However, those needing to register their boats will need tobring them to the new district office to obtain required serialnumbers. Also, Lincoln Countians will not have the close-by accessto some classes, printed materials and other information that iscurrently available at the district office here.

“There were a lot of things that were convenient for thecitizens of Lincoln County to get by dropping by there,” Ballsaid.

Following the club meeting, Ball acknowledged the benefits thecentral location provided by having the district office inBrookhaven. The district covers much of Southwest Mississippi andofficers often gather at the local office for meetings.

“Brookhaven was kind of the central point for officers,” Ballsaid. “It was a good situation for us and we enjoyed our timehere.”

Although the Lincoln County board decision was unexpected, Ballsaid wildlife officials were understanding.

“We’re not mad at anybody,” Ball said.

Wilson said county officials and wildlife officials looked atthe old Keystone building as a possible new location, but wildlifeofficials did not want that.

With the wildlife office building to become vacant in a littleover three months, an unknown factor at this point is how much itwill cost to renovate it for tax office and other county needs.

“It’s going to take some money to do it, though,” Wilsonsaid.

County Administrator David Fields said Dungan Engineering isworking toward developing plans, but county officials have not seenany numbers. Fields added that officials sought help with theproject during a trip to Washington, D.C., but wereunsuccessful.

“We didn’t get any love on that,” Fields said.