Board decides on 2-story courthouse

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

The Webster County Board of Supervisors has agreed that the new courthouse in Walthall will be designed as a two-story structure.

The two-story plan was approved Dec. 21 after discussion with project architects Paul Bagley and Adam Haver of JH&H, who arrived with rough plans for the building.

The motion directed JH&H Architects to draw up plans for a two-story courthouse of about 16,500 square feet and a single-story annex building of about 1,824 square feet for storage. Paul Crowley (District 4) made the motion and Doug Burgess (District 5) seconded it; all supervisors voted aye except Randy Rico (District 3).

The architects recommended a two-story building for safety reasons. They said isolating court functions and personnel on the second floor as planned with a rear entrance to the second floor would provide better security.

County Engineer Karl Grubb also voiced his support for a two-story building for security purposes. Board attorney Buchanan Meek Jr. said that, in his opinion, the courthouse needs to be an imposing place. Having two stories “gives the building a grandness you don’t get from a one-story building,” he said.

During discussion of the courtroom being on the second level, some board members noted that anyone over 65 years of age may be excused from jury duty if they desire. The building will also have an elevator to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Superintendent of Education Jack Treloar, contacted by phone during the meeting, said he plans to keep school district offices in the Central Office Building (old high school) in Eupora. The architects indicated that they will design the building to have a drive-through window for the tax assessor’s office.

County board members and architects toured two courthouses earlier this month during the Mississippi Association of Supervisors’ New Term Orientation. They were the Smith County Courthouse in Raleigh and the Covington County Courthouse in Collins.

The site for the new courthouse is on the west side of Highway 9 in Walthall near the Highway 50 intersection. Bids for demolition of the old courthouse, which burned nearly three years ago, will be opened Jan. 19.

Also during last Monday morning’s meeting, the board accepted a State Aid Project and a Local System Bridge Program project as completed, releasing the contractors.

Night meeting
The board recessed until 6 p.m. the same day for a rare evening meeting, where it voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel.

In addition to all five supervisors, chancery clerk and board attorney, those present at the latter meeting at the Doss Building were Justice Court Judge Jerry Jones and Rebecca Ellison, county Prosecuting Attorney Jan Butler and Sheriff Tim Mitchell — all of whom remained for the executive session. Chancery Clerk Russ Turner said afterwards that no action was taken.

The board was to meet again at 8:30 a.m. today. Supervisors and other elected county officials for the next term will be sworn in at 3 p.m. today at the Eupora Community Center.