By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After years of waiting, the city soon will get the old Milam Manufacturing building that was seized in May 2009 by the federal government in a contraband cigarette bust.
Tupelo leaders want to convert the site into the city’s new police headquarters.
“It’s an exciting day,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. on Monday, announcing a Memorandum of Understanding from the federal government that would release the building at 120 Franklin Street to the city.
The City Council is set to accept the MOU at its meeting today. Afterward, it goes back to the federal government for final approval, said city attorney John Hill.
As for how long that will take, “if it’s in a week, it’s in a week. If it’s in a month, it’s in a month,” Hill said. “We hope to get this property within a month.”
The city originally had plans to demolish the aging structure and build a new, energy-efficient police headquarters on the site. It already has about $3.5 million set aside for the project through a previous bond issue.
It’s unclear if that’s still the plan. Reed said the city will review a preliminary sketch by an architect prepared several years ago and go from there.
The roughly 100,000 square-foot building is valued at about $1.6 million by the Lee County tax assessor. But the property will be reappraised after its acquired by the city, and the federal government will get 20 percent of its appraisal price in what’s called an “equity share.”
According to the MOU, the city must begin using the property within one year of its transfer, and it can be used only for law-enforcement purposes.
Currently, the police department operates out of two cramped buildings downtown. The city has wanted to build a new headquarters for at least the past six years.