By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Early plans for Tupelo’s new police headquarters show a two-story facility with a $8.8 million price tag.
A copy of the preliminary plan for the police headquarters shows a building of up to 32,331 square feet. Each Tupelo City Council member has a copy of the preliminary design plan and proposed budget for the city’s next capital project.
Mayor Jason Shelton and council President Nettie Davis on Friday will meet privately with other council members to discuss project details. The full council will discuss the project with Shelton, Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre and other city officials on Tuesday, the first time for the council to discuss project details at length.
Shelton has said he supports issuing bonds for this project and wants to press forward as soon as possible.
“The project has been on the table long enough,” Shelton said. “We’ve got to see what we can afford and move forward with the project.”
Plans for the new police facility date to the late 1990s, when the city issued bonds for a new headquarters, but has turned into a serious test of patience for Tupelo’s mayors and police chiefs who have followed. Instead of advancing with the project, city leaders waited years for a federal investigation to end related to a cigarette contraband case.
Tupelo’s patience resulted in a contractual agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice providing land and $1.5 million to the city for law enforcement use. The deed changed hands to the city in June.
Currently, the city has about $5.3 million for the new facility that won’t require property acquisition costs for the location at Front and Franklin streets.
Council members will evaluate the preliminary plans for the project, agree on a final version and determine how to fund costs beyond existing project funding. Options include issuing more bonds and using part of the city’s $18 million in reserves.
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington said he’s less concerned about immediate costs and more focused on ensuring the city has a facility that will remain functional for a half-century.
“We’re going to have one shot at building this,” he said. “We shouldn’t cut corners.”
Aguirre said he has tried to balance good stewardship of local tax dollars with constructing a facility to meet the city’s law enforcement needs for up to a half-century from now.
“We’ve already cut out a lot of bling on this plan,” he said. “We knew this council would be very conservative with this project.”
For instance, the plan originally included an on-site gym for police officers but was removed in later planning discussions.
However, plans for new police headquarters include secure sally ports to unload prisoners, a lineup room, evidence processing areas, forensic interview rooms with video capability, short-term holding cells and meeting rooms for community events. Plans also call for new technology.
Some larger issues still remain with creating a new police facility. Some council members want to incorporate Tupelo Municipal Court services in the new building, something Shelton opposes.
Discussion next week likely will indicate whether city leaders agree on funding costs and needs in preliminary plans.
View preliminary facility plans and estimated budget costs below