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Supervisors discuss budget for Sheriff’s Department renovations

After expressing concern over the proposed budget to relocate the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and renovate two buildings, the Lafayette County Supervisors met to discuss the numbers.

During a special meeting called on Thursday, supervisors met with Sheriff Joey East, as well as architect Tom Howorth, to go over line items for the project to renovate both the former Department of Human Services and Justice Court buildings.

In the Feb. 17 supervisors meeting, District 4 supervisor Chad McLarty expressed his displeasure over the estimated cost of the project at around $1.4 million and the total cost, including a 10-percent contingent and furniture budget, around $1.8 million. Howorth said the total cost would probably be more in the range of $1.6 -$1.7 million.

A couple of the items McLarty had qualms over the county spending money on included $116,000 for insulation and $196,000 for a new heating and cooling system at the DHS building. Both buildings were used as of late last year, with both departments relocating to the new Lafayette County Business Center off of F.D. “Buddy” East Parkway South last fall.

“That building was occupied until last August,” McLarty said. “In my eight years as supervisor, I never had a complaint about it being too hot or too cold or having a leaky roof. I thought this project was going to be more about moving interior walls to make offices.”

The DHS building was constructed in the 1930s, causing any plans to renovate the building to be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Howorth said they anticipate sending those plans to the MDAH next week and the approval process could take up to a month.

A reason for the costs being higher than McLarty expected is due to having to get the DHS building compliant with current building codes in 2020. Of the $1.4 million, around $1.1 million is budgeted for the DHS renovations, compared to around $350,000 for the former Justice Court building.

During the meeting, East informed the Board of Supervisors that once the Sheriff’s Department leaves the Lafayette County Detention Center, they will be coming back to them to ask for money to do renovations at the jail. The proposed renovations to the LCDC are “extensive,” according to East.

“There is a lot to do if we are going to stay at that location,” East told the Board regarding the jail. “The building was great 30 years ago, but our needs are different. We need a medical area and more observation cells. And we need more cells for female prisoners. … There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The LCDC was built in 1993.

During the meeting, County Administrator Lisa Carwyle stated the County had budgeted $900,000 in this year’s budget to cover the project, knowing it would not all be completed in one fiscal year. Additional funds to pay for the project could come from cash reserves.

After East brought up the work that needed to be done at the jail, one idea that was presented was to put the Justice Court building project on hold until Howorth looked at what work exactly needed to be done at the jail. Howorth told the Board he would separate the project, making the DHS building, which will be the new home for the sheriff’s department, the main bid and the Justice Court building an alternative while he evaluated the proposed jail renovations.

The Justice Court building is planned to be used a new training facility for investigators and deputies.