NMRLS to close Tupelo office

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – North Mississippi Rural Legal Services will close its Tupelo office.
Rejecting last month’s cost-cutting proposal by Tupelo attorney Brian Neely to move the main office to Tupelo, the nonprofit’s board voted to keep its headquarters in Oxford.
“The board decided to go with the plan designed by the budget reduction committee,” said Ben Thomas Cole II, executive director.
Of the current Tupelo staff, the paralegal will be laid off, the attorney will be invited to transfer to one of the remaining offices and the secretary’s tenure will depend on seniority within the union.
“With a combination of all the savings this will allow us to achieve, we’ll have a savings of about $350,000, which will get us to where we need to be until 2012,” Cole said.
Further cuts could come next year: Much of the funding for rural legal services agencies across the nation comes from federal allocations, and while a Senate bill projects 2 percent cuts across the board, a House bill calls for a cut of 25 percent.
With the Tupelo office probably closing by the end of the year, North Mississippi Rural Legal Services will reconfigure its 39-county service area among its remaining offices in West Point, Oxford, Clarksdale and Greenville. NMRLS provides counsel and representation to poor people in the north half of the state on legal issues as varied as housing, credit, Social Security and domestic violence.
For those Northeast Mississippians who cannot make the trip to one of the offices, an attorney-staffed telephone hotline is available.

Click video to hear audio