Council set to discuss police HQ

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Tupelo PoliceBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Discussions on the direction of the new Tupelo Police Department headquarters could happen soon, after the City Council likely accepts bids today to demolish a building on the property eyed as the new site.

Council members agreed during a work session Monday to meet as a body to discuss the project with the mayor, police chief and other city officials.

Council President Nettie Davis voiced skepticism about partnering with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department on a joint law enforcement facility, something discussed by Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson and Mayor Jason Shelton.

While the city moves toward demolishing the old Milam Manufacturing building at Franklin and Front streets, city leaders must determine what’s next for the property. It was deeded to Tupelo by federal law enforcement after the city’s assistance in a six-year investigation of a scheme that stored cigarettes in the building to avoid paying taxes.

“I’m going to have to be sold with the county coming in on this,” Davis said. “We already have the money on this project.”

Along with the federal donation of the property to the city after the tobacco investigation, Tupelo also received about $1.6 million, which will help pay for a new police facility. The city already had $3.5 million set aside for the project.

Bids for the demolition project ranged from $134,839 to $584,875.

Johnson tried unsuccessfully to convince former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. to partner with the city on a joint facility, something the county law enforcement leader believes could save money for both local governments. Shelton and other city and county leaders have said they’re open to revisiting discussions about a shared facility.

“It was an idea that had been tossed around,” Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre told the council on Monday. “I don’t know if it was anything definite.”

Don Lewis, Tupelo chief operations officer, said he will discuss next steps for the project this week with Shelton, who will likely be out of the city until late this week attending conferences.

“Hopefully I can get some guidance from him by the end of the week,” Lewis said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com