OUR OPINION: Federal forfeit provides site for police building

By NEMS Daily Journal

Persistence and participation in an extensive federal-state-local investigation rewarded Tupelo on Tuesday with a windfall forfeit of valuable seized real estate that will become the site of a new police administrative headquarters.
The land and building, which had been used as a warehouse for storing contraband cigarettes, may be best remembered as the former Milam Manufacturing property at the corner of Front and Franklin streets in downtown Tupelo.
The continuing investigation involving the Tupelo Police Department’s work started in 2007.
Serious efforts to site and build a new police headquarters began late in the administration of former Mayor Ed Neelly, and the city set aside $3.7 million from a bond sale to use in construction. Those efforts did not bear fruit, but the funds were retained and planning continued as Tupelo waited for the Federal Equitable Sharing Program process to reward the city by transferring ownership of the property to the city. A quit claim was filed Tuesday in Lee County transferring the former manufacturing structure – 100,000 square feet – to the city’s ownership specifically for law enforcement uses.
The aging facility will be razed, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. announced at a 10:30 a.m. press conference on Tuesday.
The city now must wait until the Federal Bureau of Investigation completes its probe and determines how much in forfeited cash will be transferred to Tupelo for law enforcement purposes.
Reed and Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton both noted that the police department is scattered across downtown because the police headquarters building at Front and Jefferson streets is too small for all functions.
Overcrowding is a long-term problem and became apparent soon after the city closed its jail, which was in the existing headquarters, and started using the Lee County Jail on North Commerce Street. The police department has 110 sworn officers and 130 total employees.
A regrouping of all police department functions is a matter of efficiency, maximum responsiveness and is an immediate need.
The Milam Manufacturing location is a 30-second drive from the county jail across the Franklin Street bridge spanning the Kansas City Southern Railroad.
Reed and former mayor Neelly both envision a new headquarters as a public architectural anchor.
We hope Tupelo’s patience will be rewarded soon with substantial forfeited cash to help defray construction costs.

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