Lauderdale County Courthouse options explored

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss (WTOK) - Lauderdale County supervisors all agree that they want something done to address courthouse concerns sooner rather than later. What they don't agree on is the best way to do this.

During Tuesday's meeting the group discussed several possibilities. One of those was building a new structure in the industrial park. It turns out this cannot be done for legal reasons.

They also talked about the possibility of purchasing the old federal courthouse in downtown.

Another option being seriously considered is temporarily moving more county operations into vacant areas in the county annex building, which is located across the street from the courthouse.

"To me it's just, 'how much room do we need?'" says Board President Wayman Newell. "We'll have to decide whether some are going to stay in the annex building, or are all of us going to move?' To me, you need to stay in the building if you're going to continue to run the lights and so forth, and if you haven't got a buyer."

The contractors for the project met with supervisors Tuesday. They say there are pros and cons for the annex option.

"You know, this building is similar to the courthouse," says Bob Luke with LPK Architects. "It's old. It has some older elements to it, but it's still functional, but obviously less complex than the courthouse property."

During Tuesday's meeting supervisors approved advertising for bids for property that could be used to temporarily house courthouse business. One site that is being considered is the old JC Penney space at Bonita Lakes Mall.

"We hope to come back toward the end of the month and maybe a little later than that," says Luke, "and get all of these scenarios in a way that they can make an informed decision."

In recent years grand juries have cited numerous odor, plumbing and paint problems at the courthouse. Early projections estimate that it will cost about $40 million to address all of the courthouse needs; this includes parking and the jail.