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Officials try again for Chamber work

While officials from the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce have helped build and develop different areas of the cityand the county, they have long been awaiting the go-ahead forchanges and betterments to their own building.

But at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting, the boardapproved the third set and hopefully final bid specifications forthe Chamber of Commerce and old City Hall building. The plans areto renovate the façade of the old fire station, paint all theexterior painted surfaces of both buildings, and repair and replacemetalwork and masonry in some needed areas.

“After several years of trying to get this off the ground, whichwas further complicated by the historic nature of the building, wefound the best course of action to be to completely seal thebuilding to make it as sound as possible while making as manycosmetic upgrades as possible,” said Chamber Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield.

The interior will see handicapped-accessible bathrooms, as wellas renovations to the kitchen and workroom areas. The upstairswindows will also be overhauled, as the wood structures havedeteriorated over the years, Brumfield said.

In previous attempts, bids taken on the project were coming outwell above the $265,000 available for the project, and Brumfieldsaid there were several plans that had to be cut in order to getany part of the project under way.

“We had to change the scope of the renovations in order to fitthe existing funding,” he said. “It proved to be very costly to addan elevator and some of the other things we had planned.”

This is the third time the project will be bid out, Brumfieldsaid.

“We hope the third time is the charm,” he said.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the old fire stationand the old City Hall are adjoining buildings, but were built attwo separate times. This makes it difficult to renovate, not tomention much more expensive, Brumfield said.

“The fire station was erected before the chamber, and with thetwo buildings being separate but on top of each other, makes theproject extremely expensive,’ he said. “However we do anticipatefuture improvements along the lines of the elevator, but we dointend to utilize available funding while we can.”

Another hang-up through the years has been that the old firestation and City Hall are historic buildings, which means they fallunder certain standards set by the Mississippi Department ofArchives and History. These standards must be followed in order tomake the building eligible for grant money in the future.

“Other than the handicapped-ready fixtures and restrooms, thiswill make the building period-correct so it will look like it didin 1910,” Brumfield said.

Brumfield said that while the initial renovations would notaddress all that has been planned, they will make the building muchmore eligible for grants and other financial assistance that can bebudgeted for aesthetic improvements, especially through theDepartment of Archives and History.

Adding period-correct lighting and heating fixtures will also bea part of those later projects, in addition to redoing other areasof the first floor, officials said.