Demolition, asbestos removal begins courthouse renovations

The long-awaited courthouse restoration project has begun in earnest. Construction crews are hard at work with demolition and asbestos removal during Friday’s meeting of the Copiah County Board of Supervisors.

The majority of the demolition has been done, reported project architect Carl Nobles, and asbestos abatement was under way Friday and expected to finish up over the weekend. Paint has been stripped, revealing the oak beneath.

“It’s real pretty, better than we hoped for,” said Nobles.

The upper floors of the courthouse are involved in the project, but on the ground floor it is business as usual – except for the closure of the rear entrance. Visitors to the courthouse are asked to use the front doors while the construction is under way.

The Copiah County Circuit Court is holding hearings and trials in the Chancery Courtroom  across the street from the courthouse and the Hazlehurst Municipal Courtroom located in the Hazlehurst Police Department on East Whitworth Street.

Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard asked supervisors to consult with a courthouse security firm during the renovations to evaluate the county’s needs, so that any needed improvements can be done before construction is complete. Emergency director Randle Drane advised that Homeland Security grant funds will be sought for the security upgrades.

Judge Pickard also expressed appreciation to the City of Hazlehurst for allowing the Circuit Court to use their facilities, acknowledging the inconvenience to the city court.

PROJECT POSTPONEMENT

Mayor Arthur Lee Evans of Crystal Springs discussed the postponement of the Pat Harrison Drive culvert project with the board. The mayor pointed out that the city is under a budget crunch, along with many other departments.

“It boils down to cost and time,” said Mayor Evans.

The city is responsible for moving utilities, engineering costs, and acquiring easements for the project. Rather than lose the funding, the city informed the county to designate the funds for another project rather than lose them, as the city could not go forward at this time.

This action didn’t kill the project, pointed out Supervisor Jimmy Phillips. The project was “deprogrammed,” which means it was removed from the construction schedule, but the project remains in the system and can be “reprogrammed” at a later date when more funds become available.

Mayor Evans also expressed the city’s support of the county’s hope to locate a regional jail facility here. A regional jail will bring jobs and provide inmate labor for  projects like litter removal, as well as providing a new jail for the sheriff’s department.

The board will advise the mayors when the Department of Corrections officials plan to visit.

OTHER BUSINESS

Drane advised the board that the fire chiefs voted on where to send the old Jaws of Life that had been returned to the county when a department purchased new equipment. The vote was tied between Smyrna and Hopewell, but Hopewell won the subsequent coin toss. Drane told the board that Hopewell worked nine wrecks in 2007 while Smyrna worked two.

Homeland Security funds will be used to upgrade security at the District Attorney’s new office, Drane advised. Additional funds will be sought to upgrade fire service communications.

The board accepted a grant to upgrade the sheriff’s department firearms.

Cultural affairs director Janet Schriver updated the board on grants that will be used in conjunction with Youth Court.

County engineer Joe Johnson advised the board that federal funds have been cut off until all bridges are posted according to new federal guidelines. The signs are already on order and will be installed soon. The county does not have any federal projects ready to let at this time, and the bridges will be posted before any projects are ready to begin, the engineer reported.

The engineer was authorized to respond to DEQ and do necessary surveys on the rubbish pits to comply with permit requirements.

Publication of the final settlement of the Highway 472 project was authorized.

The board discussed the need to enforce delinquent personal property taxes.

An agreement between the Hinds County and Copiah County sheriff departments was approved to reflect their cooperation in responding to calls on the Hinds Community College campus at Utica, which is partially located in both counties.

Claims were approved totaling $1,770,480.36 before the board recessed until Friday, February 15, at 9 a.m.

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