Judge Price, parents voice opposition to proposed MHP relocation site

Published 7:00 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

The Warren County Board of Supervisors heard from a half-dozen residents opposed to the chosen site for the Mississippi Highway Patrol office to relocate, but took no action on the matter during their regular meeting Monday in the Warren County Courthouse.

Parents, as well as Youth Court Judge John Price, voiced their concerns and opposition to the chosen location — the vacant Lauderdale State Farm insurance building — at the corner of Drummond and Belmont streets because of two established daycare centers in the vicinity. They told supervisors they believe there is a risk and danger of registered sex offenders, who are required by law to report every 90 days to the MHP facility to maintain their registered status.

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According to Price, there are 76 children who attend the daycare center immediately next door to the proposed facility and another 34 who attend the daycare down Belmont Street.

“I plead with all of you not to buy this property,” Price told the board. “We are adamantly opposed to it. It would be devastating to put these predators within arms length of these defenseless children.”

Board President Richard George told Price the supervisors were not aware of the state law until it was brought to their attention by the judge.

“We never knew the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s responsibilities and duties until you called us,” George said. “We just provide the facility for them to operate.”

George also pointed out the current facility on Grove Street is “within 350-feet of a daycare right now.”

The MHP has threated to leave their office in Vicksburg where thousands from five counties renew their driver’s license, claiming the current facility on Grove Street is inadequate and unsafe for their employees.

County officials and members of the MHP examined the proposed site in February and “they were pleased,” according to George with the location. The supervisors hired McMillin Real Estate in March to assess the value of the property, but still have not received a commitment letter from MHP officials, which is necessary before the building can be purchased or leased.

The vacant building is owned by the wife of former Warren County supervisor Bill Lauderdale, who also spoke at Monday’s meeting. He said “no one cares more about kids than my wife and I,” but people need to go by the facts and not emotions.

Lauderdale said the current MHP facility has been in the same building as youth court and the youth detention center for the past 20-plus years and there’s never been a problem. He also said there’s a public school within a block of the current facility, as well as two daycare centers.

“There are 28 sex offenders that live or work within one mile of Colonial Day School (on Belmont Street) and five of those are within a block of the area,” Lauderdale said. “The subject of sex offenders and children is a highly emotional issue, but the reality is the 104 sex offenders that are registered in Warren County are living, working, attending church, going to ballgames and shopping right next to us. These people are unidentifiable.”

Ashley Carroll, who works for Warren-Yazoo Behavioral Health as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and also has three children who attend a daycare on Belmont Street, told the board relocating the MHP to the corner of Belmont and Drummond streets undermines the intent of the law when it comes to registered sex offenders.

“I don’t think the proposed location could be much worse,” said Carroll, who has treated victims of sexual assault. “Knowingly putting these children, and my own at risk I believe undermines the intent of the law. I feel it is unacceptable and unnecessary.”

The supervisors took no action on the matter and recessed until May 21 meeting at 9 a.m. on the third floor of the Warren County courthouse.