County, court officers favor Clay building for expansion

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

1220 Clay St.(Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[1/9/04]A Clay Street building best known from the days it housed an auto dealership emerged as the frontrunner during Thursday discussions on where Warren County might rent additional courtroom space.

Supervisor Richard George of District 5 said the former Dalrymple Ford building at 1220 Clay St. is “by far” the best alternative among the five sites officials toured Wednesday and Thursday.

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George made his comments to a meeting of Circuit Judges Isadore Patrick and Frank Vollor, George’s colleagues on the board of supervisors and Vollor’s court administrator, Lisa Counts.

They visited five possible rental locations, all privately owned buildings in and around downtown.

Supervisors said they plan to make a decision in about a month.

The search for space has been pushed by Vollor, senior of the county’s two circuit judges. He wrote the board last month that additional courtroom space is needed to allow earlier trial settings. He cited as key factors ensuring fairness to litigants and the ability of the county’s circuit court to meet judicial-timeliness standards that took effect for all state courts at the beginning of 2002.

A Warren County Bar Association committee has been formed to evaluate the alternatives and report to the board.

An important advantage of the Dalrymple building is that the county would lease the entire building instead of having to share it with other tenants, George said.

“Nobody would have any business in there, period,” except for court business, George said.

Discussion indicated the building at 1529 Walnut St., formerly a grocery store and then an office-supply business, was also a leading contender. George cited as a drawback, however, that the court would share the building with four other tenants, all private businesses.

The Thomas Building, 900 Clay St., is also being considered. Vollor cited as a drawback that its layout would mean a second-floor room for jury-deliberation but first-floor space for the courtroom and other necessary court functions.

“It’s a consideration,” Vollor said, adding that the split-level setup the building would require could tip the balance.

And the Mafan Building, 1315 Adams St., was also among the locations officials eyed. It lacked adequate parking space, however, said Supervisor Michael Mayfield of District 2.

The Dalrymple building’s parking area has space for 70 to 80 vehicles, said co-owner Jeff Burnett. The building’s other co-owners are Bob Pitts and David Sessums.

The five-year lease offered for the Dalrymple Building was $2,800 per month or $168,000 over a five-year lease. Utilities would not be included.

Rent amounts in the other two proposals that have been made public include utilities. Their five-year totals are $177,000 for 1529 Walnut St. and $213,600 for 900 Clay St.

The unusual space, layout and access requirements of a courtroom facility would require some modifications to all the buildings under consideration.

The Dalrymple building proposal includes modifying the building to create separate restrooms for jurors. In their Thursday meeting, court officials discussed other modifications that would be necessary to that building, including the creation of additional interior doorways.

Supervisors have said they plan to eventually approve adding a new wing above the parking lot of the county courthouse. Such a wing would contain a second circuit courtroom, eliminating the current need for the two judges to share one.

George said such an addition would cost $3 million to $5 million and possibly more since the building now carries a historic designation. And he repeated that budget considerations make approval of such a project likely several years away, preferably about 2008.