Ground broken for $26.5M Hattiesburg safety complex

By HASKEL BURNS,

A project more than seven years in the making got its ceremonial start Tuesday morning with a groundbreaking held at the site of the upcoming Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex on James Street.

The event was attended by approximately 100 people, including all five members of Hattiesburg City Council, officials from Hattiesburg Police Department, and state representatives. After a few short remarks, 14 officials broke ground on the site that, in about 30 months, will serve as new home for HPD and Hattiesburg Municipal Court.

“When we consider the history of the Hattiesburg Police Department, (we think about) its growth, its past chiefs, the men and women lost in the line of duty, the new and evolving threats to public safety,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “The fact that we are here today, building a home for the next generation of officers, where the next chapter of our department’s story will be written – none of that is by accident.

“So while we are ceremoniously turning dirt, we’re doing much more. We’re giving thanks to our Creator for seeing our department through both times of triumph and tragedy, and thanking the many who played a part in our story and brought us to this point.”

The Hattiesburg Public Safety Complex project, which has been discussed for the last several years as a solution to the police department’s aging facilities, took its first official step in September 2016 when municipal court moved from the James Street site to its temporary location in the former federal courthouse on West Pine Street. That move was followed by the Parks and Recreation Department, which moved from Katie Avenue to a new location at Tatum Park, allowing HPD’s dispatch to move temporarily into the Katie Avenue Building.

LIFE of Mississippi, which was located adjacent to the former HPD building, then moved into a new location on West 7th Street before HPD staff moved into their temporary location on Klondyke Street.

Demolition on the James Street site was completed late last year – minus the former Methodist hospital section, which will stay intact – and HFP and municipal court will move into the new facility as soon as it is available.

In addition to new digs for the police department and municipal court, initial plans for the Public Safety Complex included a new facility for Hattiesburg Fire Department administration, which is currently located on Corinne Street. But after the cost for the project rose several times during negotiations, Barker proposed scaling back the project, including starting without the fire administration building.

Most recently, council members accepted a bid of $26.5 million from Hanco Corporation of Hattiesburg to construct the facility.

“I thought about a time in the late 1990s when I worked in (the former) facility for Chief Charlie Sims, and this building was not a healthy building,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado said. “So 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.

“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.” 

Police Chief Anthony Parker said every member of HPD has been looking forward to the day ground was broken at the site.

“Thankfully, we finally made it,” he said. “To be breaking ground on a public safety complex is a massive accomplishment and a milestone for the city of Hattiesburg. 

I’m honored to be able to be able to play a part in this momentous occasion. This land might not look like much now, but the hard work and dedication will soon transform this ground into a stable of the Hub City.”