Wildlife office move to impact local businesses

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 11, 2009

When the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parkscloses up its District Five headquarters in Brookhaven and moves toPike County this fall, it will take with it more than a handful ofemployees and $500 per month in rent paid to the county.

It will also take a small piece of the local economy.

MDWF&P Maj. Lane Ball, the department’s southern regionaladministrator, said the District Five office in Brookhaven bringsofficers and customers into the city from across the 12-countydistrict, and has its vehicles serviced in local automotive shopsregularly.

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When the office relocates to Pike County in October, thatbusiness will almost certainly go with it to McComb.

“It’s convenient for the administrators of this office to havework done closely,” Ball said.

MDWF&P had little choice but to leave Brookhaven after theLincoln County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in January tolet the department’s lease on the county-owned headquartersbuilding expire. Supervisors hope to reclaim and renovate thebuilding on 304 South Second St. for use by the Lincoln County TaxAssessor’s Office, which has outgrown its current space in thecourthouse.

MDWF&P, meanwhile, is set to relocate to Percy Quin StatePark, just south of McComb.

Lavelle Sullivan, owner of Brookhaven’s SullivanFord-Lincoln-Mercury, said his business often wins the right toservice the department’s vehicles through the bidding process,adding his dealership would take a “substantial” loss in businessif that work were to be henceforth done in McComb.

But Sullivan, who said he has been active in the community sinceopening the dealership in 1991, was not worried about his businessalone.

“Any time you lose a business office like that, it’s going toimpact your local economy,” he said. “Not just my business, but awhole lot of them. You can’t put a dollar figure on it, but itbrings people to Brookhaven to come to that office. Certainly, itwill affect more than just Sullivan Ford. I think it impacts thelocal economy in more ways than the community can imagine.”

Sullivan said he hopes the services his company has rendered toMDWF&P over the years have been of good enough quality that thedepartment would continue to bring its vehicles to the dealershipfor repairs, but he is concerned about the approximately 25-miledistance from Brookhaven to the department’s likely new home atPercy Quin.

“I hate the fact we’re losing the district office to McComb,” hesaid. “You would think they’d be able to find some viable officespace somewhere here in the city or county.”

Brookhaven Glass owner Glen Allred said his company also enjoyedMDWF&P’s business when the department’s vehicles were damaged.He’s hoping the unique service his business offers will continuebringing the department’s business to him, which he estimated at”several thousand dollars” annually.

“We’re continuously working with them,” Allred said. “Some ofthem still come here from other counties, so I would hope theywould continue. But we don’t need to lose anything – anything’s ahelp.”

Allred questioned the necessity of forcing MDWF&P out oftown for the sake of office space, saying he believed there wasenough space for county employees without having the cancel thedepartment’s lease. He wondered what would happen if other countyagencies grew larger and needed to leave their offices in theLincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex.

“What are we going to do, board up the courthouse?” Allredsaid.

Richard Maxwell, owner of Richard’s Paint and Auto Repair, wasless worried. He said his shop worked only occasionally withMDWF&P.

“We’ve done some for them, and I enjoyed what I got from them,but it ain’t gonna kill me if they don’t, I guess,” he said.