City is now owner of former car lot

By HASKEL BURNS,

While bidding out certain projects late last year for the upcoming Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex, city officials received a $2 million bid for a maintenance facility at that site – a number that was a little out of their comfort zone.

As it turns out, the city will get a facility at nowhere near that cost with the $612,000 purchase of the former Courtesy Ford building on West Pine Street. The measure, which was approved Tuesday after an executive session of Hattiesburg City Council, will transform the building into a maintenance site for Hattiesburg Police Department vehicles, as well as fleets from surrounding police and fire departments as needed.

“(That $2 million) would have taken the overall (safety complex) project to $30 million, which is something we didn’t want to do,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “So we found the Courtesy Ford building for sale for $600,000 – when you add in the bays and the equipment to keep the bays there, that’s an extra $12,000, so it’s a $612,000 purchase price.

“We had an owner who was willing to finance it, and build in the five-year debt service into the capital budget of the police department. So what you’ll have is a maintenance facility right there on Pine Street that already has 12 bays, so it can kind of become our public safety maintenance facility all the way around, as well as any other neighboring agency that needed to use it.”

In addition to those bays, the building also features 9,000 square feet of heated and cooled space that can be used for storage, as well other city departments or public service agencies that might need to locate there.

“Furthermore, this allows us to stabilize the West Pine Street corridor, which we’ve lost a lot of car dealerships from that area (that have moved to west Hattiesburg),” Barker said. “So it was kind of a win on several fronts, but very much fiscally advantageous for us. We’ve done our due diligence in looking at the building, and it’s in great shape.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in April for the Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex, which will be built at the site of the former HPD station on James Street. That building was recently demolished – with the exception of the former Methodist hospital on the site – to make room for new homes for the police station and municipal court.

In the meantime, HPD staff are in a temporary location on Klondyke Street, while municipal court has temporarily set up shop in the former federal court building at 200 West Pine St. The $26.5 million facility, which is being constructed by Hanco Corporation of Hattiesburg, is expected to be complete in approximately 30 months.

“When we think in terms of the Hattiesburg Police Department and all that it does for our community, we certainly owe them a healthy and safe place for them to provide the services that they provide to this community,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado said at the groundbreaking.

“So I am honored that we are able to give them this facility that will enable them to continue the great work that they already doing. This facility will also serve as an anchor to this community that will hopefully attract other development that will help to beautify this area.”

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