By NEMS Daily Journal
Crime doesn’t pay for crooks, but sometimes the application of justice produces tangible benefits for law enforcers.
It’s expected that sometime in early January the city of Tupelo will hold the deed for property known historically as the Milam Manufacturing Building on North Front Street at the intersection with Franklin Street.
The site would be used to build a new Police Department headquarters/administrative center, for which funds are in hand.
The parcel was forfeited by its owners as a result of a multi-year, multi-state, multi-agency criminal investigation of a conspiracy to sell “black market” cigarettes. The Tupelo Police Department participated in the investigation with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In such cases, forfeited property can be transferred to local governments and used in law enforcement, with court approval.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said Wednesday the approval process has started under the orders of U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock. Reed said he and the City Council have been discussing getting the property as the site for the long-proposed new police headquarters.
Council President Fred Pitts on Wednesday said, to his knowledge, everyone on the council is strongly supportive of accepting the parcel, moving to the necessary votes, and proceeding as soon as possible with construction of a new headquarters, perhaps in spring 2011.
Pitts said Police Chief Tony Carleton and an architect have discussed how plans developed for a previously proposed building in the Fairpark neighborhood could be adapted to the Milam Manufacturing property.
The previous proposal stopped in its tracks when residents and property owners in Fairpark refused permission to vary from the development’s master plan, which did not allow that kind of structure on the proposed site behind City Hall.
The Milam Manufacturing site has all the assets needed in a headquarters building, beginning with location:
• It is near downtown and the Lee County Jail.
• It is on a major street with quick access to U.S. Highways 45, 78 and McCullough Boulevard.
• It abuts property to the north owned by the city so that if more space than the Milam site is required it would be readily accessible.
• It would improve the “curb appeal” of North Front Street, which is a major entry/exit route for downtown, and the new headquarters could serve as a magnet for compatible commercial ventures.
The existing headquarters building on Front Street at Jefferson Street dates to the 1960s, and it has long been overcrowded.
The city has patiently waited on this possibility – a smart decision.