• 75°

Decision nears on wildlife bldg.

A plan to keep the state wildlife department in Brookhaven byrenovating and rearranging its county-owned office space willeither be pursued further or abandoned in three weeks when LincolnCounty supervisors weigh project cost estimates against thedepartment’s wants and needs.

Supervisors agreed Monday to send an architect to theMississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ DistrictFive headquarters to compile an estimate of renovation costs andplanned to request a MDWF&P official to review the project atthe next board meeting on Monday, July 6.

If costs are manageable and the department agrees to the deal -which requires them to move into a smaller office space and paydouble the current rent – supervisors will go forward withrenovations and MDWF&P will cancel a planned relocation toPercy Quin State Park in McComb. But if the department rejects thedeal or renovation costs are too high, supervisors will drop theproposal and efforts to keep MDWF&P in Brookhaven will likelyend.

“If that became a cost problem for us, it might not work out,”said District Four Supervisor Doug Moak. “We might could ask themif they’d consider staying until we get this worked out.”

Supervisors plan to move the department into the rear half ofthe county-owned building at 304 South Second St. after renovationsand relocate portions of the Lincoln County Tax Assessor’s Office -which has outgrown its courthouse offices – into the more spaciousfront half. MDWF&P will have its monthly rent increased from$500 to $1,000 to help pay renovation costs as part of thedeal.

The renovation plan was devised last Monday after weeks ofpublic debate surrounding supervisors’ January decision not torenew MDWF&P’s lease on the building. Local merchants decriedthe decision, saying their businesses collected thousands ofdollars from department officials and their guests, who come toBrookhaven from all over District Five’s 12 counties.

Brookhaven Monument owner Dave Pace last month authored apetition calling for supervisors to reverse their decision. Pacepresented the final copies of the petition Monday, saying he hadgathered 1,150 signatures.

Renovations will be expensive, supervisors said up front, butnew money worries arose Monday when county assessor Leon Perryreported 90 percent of the building’s interior walls are masonry.Though it is unclear if all the walls are load bearing, theconcrete structures will make renovations more difficult andpossibly more expensive.

“It is gonna make it challenging to tear them out,” said countyengineer Ryan Holmes, a civil engineer with Dungan Engineering PA.”You could probably tear some of them out and put in columns, butit would be tough.”

If MDWF&P accepts the deal and renovations are scheduled,the building known as the courthouse annex will undergo severalchanges.

Plans call for approximately 2,200 square feet of space in therear half of the building to be renovated for MDWF&P androughly 3,500 square feet in the front to be refurbished for thetax office. Additionally, supervisors plan to enclose 966 squarefeet of courtyard on the building’s south side and also take in a368 square-foot strip on the north side. A drive-through window forthe tax office will also be installed.

Lincoln County Tax Assessor/Collector Nancy Jordan agreed Mondaythat her office would be accommodated by the renovation plans, butthe board said it needed input from MDWF&P.

“The two most important parties need to sit down at the table,”said board attorney Bob Allen. “There’s a cut-off point for themspace-wise, there’s a cut-off point for you (supervisors)money-wise. You’ve got to have some kind of ballpark figure. Is itcheaper to just level it and start from scratch?”

MDWF&P officials could not be reached for comment.

District Three Supervisor Nolan Williamson said regardless ofMDWF&P’s future in Brookhaven, the building in question wouldhave to be fully renovated for future purposes.