Hattiesburg continues with eminent domain for new U.S. 49 fire station

By HASKEL BURNS,

Hattiesburg City Attorney Randy Pope is following up on the eminent domain measure to acquire land on U.S. 49 for the purpose of building the city’s ninth fire station, as Hattiesburg City Council members recently authorized Pope to deposit $87,750 into the court registry in advance of a November trial on the matter.

The matter was approved by a 5-0 vote during Tuesday’s council meeting, which will bring the city one step closer to purchasing the 1.95-acre parcel of land at 7450 U.S. 49 that is owned by Saia Motor Freight Line.

“I have been in negotiation with the attorney for Saia, and we have agreed to allow the city to go ahead and take title to that property, and deposit the amount of the city appraiser’s just compensations, which is $87,750,” Pope said. “The trial in November will be only on the issues of damages – in other words, is this all we owe or do we owe more?

“But this will allow the city to have title on the property, and we can begin to make the necessary arrangements and plans to design the facility and all those sorts of things. That way, we don’t have to wait until November or later to do that – we can go ahead and do that now.”

Construction of Fire Station No. 9, which will feature three bays and a ladder truck, is expected to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million.

In late 2017, council members voted to institute a 3-mill increase on ad valorem taxes, with 1 mill going to the construction of the upcoming fire station and the other 2 mills set aside for future debt service on the upcoming Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex. Residents in the Hattiesburg Public School District only saw an increase of 0.26 mills, as the amount of millage needed to fund the school district’s budget decreased.

“Any time you can upgrade facilities, it’s a positive recruiting and retention tool for your manpower,” Mayor Toby Barker said in an earlier story. “As the city grows, obviously we want to show that we’re going to put the investment into city services for areas that will have positive effects (because of this).

“Furthermore, if we can improve our fire rating, it will just help insurance rates for our residents and our business owners.”

Back in March, council members authorized Pope to file an eminent domain suit for the land, as the city had not been able to reach an agreement with Saia officials.

“I think it’s good, and it fits what we want,” Pope said. “It takes care of all the issues except for what we owe them for that property. We’re going to have to pay something, it’s just a question of how much.”

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