County still moving into downtown building

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Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Bowdry describes the plans to use space in the Lee County Board of Supervisors administrative building while District 5 Supervisor Billie Joe Holland and County Administrator Sean Thompson look on.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Bowdry describes the plans to use space in the Lee County Board of Supervisors administrative building while District 5 Supervisor Billie Joe Holland and County Administrator Sean Thompson look on.

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – More than 20 years after Lee County Board of Supervisors administrative offices returned to a former location, efforts continue a year after the move to fill first-floor offices and a basement available for emergencies.

Administrative staff and the five-member Board of Supervisors have more than six times the space previously occupied during their time at the Lee County Justice Center and continue to move more personnel there.

In the spring, the county’s veterans service office moved to the renovated building. An inventory control clerk expected to move to a first-floor office this week with significant plans for more staff to share the building.

A key move still in planning stages, Lee County Emergency Management will leave the second floor of the old courthouse to the basement of the supervisor’s administrative building. This change will add enough space for staff from different county departments and other public safety personnel to gather in a single, secure location during an emergency.

“Communication is one of the key things during these times,” said Lee Bowdry, director of the county’s emergency management. “When you put all the heads under one roof, it makes things easier.”

The newest location provides a contrast of the supervisors administrative office space a year ago, the cramped quarters limiting public attendance of board meetings. Staff didn’t even occupy the same floor.

County Administrator Sean Thompson worked on one floor while secretaries worked on another.

“Along with more space, this place is more functional,” Thompson said. “It’s easier with board members having a close proximity here.”

First-term Supervisor Billy Joe Holland of District 5 recalls lack of available for meeting with constituents.

“We’d have to get them in a pickup and go down the road or meet at a restaurant,” he said. “Now it’s more professional.”

Instead of building a new facility for expansion, the county decided to return to the former Post Office building at Main and Broadway streets. Built in 1914, the structure has expanded and renovated through the years, also serving has home to the Community Development Foundation until 2011.

Instead of the 23 seats for the public to attend board meetings in the previous location, nearly five times as many can watch supervisors conduct county business.

At a cost of $401,467 to taxpayers, the returning to an existing downtown building saved taxpayers up to two-thirds the price of a new facility, said Rud Robison Jr., project architect with Pryor & Morrow. Upgrades included making the building more handicap accessible.

“I think it was a really good use of public money to improve a historically significant building for continuing use of a public entity,” Robison said.

Lee County Board of Supervisors secretary Tammy Rodgers started work with the board 24 years ago, just more than a year before supervisors moved from the current location. Before the move, she didn’t have a computer on her desk. She had a typewriter she joked arrived on the Mayflower.

“The building is a lot nicer than it was in 1989,” she said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com