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County mulls space options with BPD move

Lincoln County supervisors are mulling their options about thebest way to utilize space that will be vacant when the BrookhavenPolice Department moves to its new location.

Renovations to the old Mississippi Highway Safety Patrolbuilding on Highway 51 purchased by the city are expected to becompleted by June 30. The city police department will move in assoon as those renovations are complete.

The city presently shares utility expenses with the county forspace occupied by the police department in the LincolnCounty-Brookhaven Government Complex.

In a letter from Mayor Bob Massengill to the county boardMonday, the city requested the county lower its share of theutility costs on the space once the police department moves outsince it will be unoccupied. At Monday’s board meeting, the lettersparked a discussion among supervisors as to the best way to usethe space.

District One Supervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson suggested movingthe Civil Defense office from its office on East Chippewa Street.The Civil Defense Office has been plagued with a bad roof and otherneeded renovations for several years, he said.

A permanent location for the Civil Defense Office has been underdiscussion for several months. Several alternative locations hadbeen identified, but were eliminated for various reasons, includingthe costs of renovations to the existing structures at thoselocations.

In recent weeks, the board approved the purchase of a new rooffor the present office, but other necessary improvements will alsobe needed eventually, said Civil Defense Director CliffordGaley.

Also, Galey said, he didn’t believe it would be good for all ofthe county’s emergency communications to be located in the samebuilding. Presently, the county’s primary system is located withthe sheriff’s office while an emergency backup system is located atthe Civil Defense Office.

“The problem is that if something goes wrong there would be nobackup,” said District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts. “The county’stoo big for no backup.”

Galey confirmed Watts’ comment.

“During Katrina and immediately afterwards, we would not havebeen able to communicate if all our antennas had been in oneplace,” he said.

Wilson has repeatedly supported moving the Civil Defense Officeto another location. He has said a move would benefit the office byenlarging its equipment storage area and providing better workingconditions.

The supervisor has also voiced his support of the currentlocation being utilized as a District One satellite office shouldthe emergency management services be moved.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said he would also like tohave some, if not all, of the space at the courthouse.

“I would eventually like to get that kitchen moved over thatway,” he said. “I’m not talking about a big area. I’ll work withwhoever moves in there.”

Rushing said he would need enough space for the kitchenappliances and two separate small pantries for utensils and drygoods storage.

The move would bring the kitchen from its location across thecourthouse parking lot from the jail into more secure environs, thesheriff said.

Last month, an inmate became the first to escape the jail byusing his trustee status as a kitchen cook to gain access to a lesssecure environment and walked off the work detail. He turnedhimself in at the jail a few days later.

Rushing said moving the kitchen within the secure boundaries ofthe sheriff’s department offices and the jail could prevent similarescape attempts in the future.

Other options were sure to present themselves as the policedepartment’s move nears, said Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop.