By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – It’s been 53 years, so a few more months won’t make a difference.
Since last March, employees at the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s First District office in Tupelo have watched a new 34,000-square-foot office being built. Their current home, built in 1959, has a host of problems, said Matt Dunn, the project engineer.
And while the project is a little behind schedule because the contractor got a late start, the long-awaited and much-needed building should be finished by August.
“This is the last of six district offices to be replaced statewide,” Dunn said.
Only 1 percent of MDOT’s budget is slated for building construction and renovation annually, he added.
As for the old facility – which will be razed and made into a parking lot – Dunn said the cost to renovate it outweighed the cost and benefit of constructing a new building.
“This old building has structural problems, it’s not ADA compliant, it has electrical problems and it has a mold problem,” he said. “There were a lot of reasons to replace it.”
To help combat mold, each air vent in the building has a filter in front of it, held in place by a makeshift frames.
Dunn also said an unknown substance oozes from several spots in the building.
“Nobody knows what it is,” he said.
So, it’s no wonder MDOT employees can’t wait to move into a new building nearly twice the size of the old one.
The cost of the new facility is a little more than $5.1 million. MDOT’s original estimate for the project was more than $7.2 million. The project was let in October 2010, but construction didn’t begin until March of last year. The work is supposed to be done by July 31, but Dunn said the contractor – DC&M of Bay St. Louis – doesn’t expect to be finished until August.
MDOT is expected to grow another 20 percent in the future, and Dunn said the new facility will accommodate that growth. Also, an auditorium capable of holding about 200 people is part of the project. That will allow MDOT to host meetings at its district office, rather than renting the space elsewhere.