More officials open to joint public safety complex

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Other city and county elected officials have joined Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton and Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson’s interest in exploring a shared police and sheriff’s department facility, an effort to see if an intergovernmental partnership could save tax dollars.

Members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors and the Tupelo City Council said Thursday they’d like to pursue an idea to partner on building a law enforcement facility together.

Board president Bobby Smith said the shared facility is something he has supported for seven years or longer. Discussions earlier this year led to city and county officials meeting with an architect to further advance the project.

However, former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. decided against the idea, choosing instead to focus on a Tupelo Police Department headquarters on downtown property at Franklin and Front Streets donated to the city through an FBI investigation, land designated for law enforcement use.

Smith said he welcomes the return to discussion for a joint facility.

“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It seems like there could be a lot of common ground.”

WHITTINGTON

WHITTINGTON

Tupelo Councilman Markel Whittington of Ward 1, a proponent of opportunities for the city and county to partner, agrees. He said “synergies” could exist between both entities.

Johnson has mentioned possible cost savings between the police and sheriff’s departments, such as consolidating positions of record keeping.

Elected officials in Tupelo and Lee County have said new law enforcement facilities are a top priority. All elected officials contacted by the Daily Journal to discuss the possible partnership said taxpayer savings must exist to justify the joint effort.

“There’s a lot of synergy in sharing costs in a facility,” Whittington said. “Having said that, savings have to exist between both parties.”

Councilman Lynn Bryan of Ward 2 said he’s also open to considering a joint facility.

“I think that we should look at all possibilities, the pros and cons of each, and make a decision based on facts that is best for the taxpayer,” he said.

Mike LeBlanc, a Louisiana-based architect who met earlier with city and county officials on the project, said a shared facility could bring considerable cost savings that come from the public safety entities in the same facility. LeBlanc’s firm, MWL Architects, designed the Alcorn County Justice Center, which includes sheriff and police departments, along with a jail, courts and emergency management offices.

LeBlanc said space needed for a Tupelo and Lee County facility would likely require at least 15 acres, much more than the 3- to 4-acre site donated to the city of Tupelo for police headquarters. He also estimated the cost for such a facility in the $18 million to $22 million range.

Tupelo Police Department Capt. Bart Aguirre, who will officially be sworn in as police chief next week, said he’s open to the idea of a shared facility.

Johnson has said previous discussions for a shared facility involved including the Lee County Jail and municipal and justice courts.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

  • DoubleTalk

    Do I smell Metro Government again ? Remember when downtown mall was sold to the taxpayers as a one stop shop for all City offices ? Now converted to something else.

    If combining to allegedly save is the idea, why does the Board of Sup and City Council not combine their offices ? Give the Police Dept City Hall. Combine other City and County Offices also.

    Bad idea all the way around. The smell of what the taxpayers will get…….STINKS

  • tupeloboyz

    DoubleTalk, a Metro form of government would save an unbelievable amount of money for all taxpayers and result in better services too. Why do we need a separate police department and fire department in every little town? Why do we need a sheriff and separate police chief’s in every little town? Consolidate the duplicated services, can some of these clowns on the government teat and lower taxes for all.

  • DoubleTalk

    From my experience, there is no savings. It’s a power grab. You still have to have the same number of people to do the same job. If you can reduce people, you have too many anyway. Go to Memphis and see the turmoil of Metro. If you have same number of people, you have same amount of space whether in one location or two.

    There are ways to save money. Go back to weak Mayor/Strong Alderman form of government with elected Dept Heads. Eliminate 4 Council members right off the bat. Political Dept Heads vanish and they start serving the folks electing them for better services.

    Why have a Sheriff in each county and police in towns ? Because they have a closer relationship with those they serve. Tupelo, Oxford and others are already trying to reidentify with those they serve.

    I’m all for canning some clowns and lowering taxes. Problem is when taxes are already up, you never get them down. They may sucker you and say we are lowering this but have raised it elsewhere. Government hunger is never quinched. You have to force them to push back from the table. Taxpayers can’t can an appointed official. They can an elected one…..although hard in itself.

    I could on about putting differing folks with differing salaries etc together and many other things but I will not at present.

    Looks good and sounds good, but in reality……..IT’s Bad Idea. Another sucker punch to taxpayers.