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County buys former grocery building

Walthall County now owns the former Sunflower building. Board attorney Conrad Mord said the deal had been closed Oct. 1 after finalizing the purchase from Mounger Properties.
The board has considered renovating the building to provide office space and more space for court, but a quick survey of courthouse offices has found little willingness to move to the building should it be revamped as office and/or court space.
Chancery clerk Shannon Fortinberry and circuit clerk Vernon Alford have said they’re satisfied with offices in the courthouse as does tax assessor/collector Peggy Hilburn. At the neighboring annex, Sheriff Kyle Breland says he isn’t interested in moving either.
While additional court space has been touted as a reason for the building purchase, both the chancery and circuit clerks say they’ve never had a problem in having court. Fortinberry said youth court hasn’t had a conflict either.
Alford said in the 11 years he’s been in office court has never been cancelled because of lack of space. On occasion when circuit court holds hearings, it may be necessary to hold hearings at the justice court building or in the board of supervisors’ room, he said, but that’s never been a problem.
Justice court clerk LaShanda Magee says they monitor the docket to keep court running smoothly and really haven’t had problem in conducting court.
The county used roughly $450,000 in American Recovery Act funding to make the purchase. Supervisors had engaged the law firm of Butler-Snow in Jackson to advise them of the legality of using the funds for the purchase.
The old grocery building covers about 17,000 square feet. A part of that space is leased to Smokey’s Tobacco. That lease runs until March 2023.
In past discussions about the building, Supervisor president, Larry Montgomery, has said the county will probably do renovations in stages rather than attempting to rework the entire building at one time.
The county’s purchase of the building upset many, including town officials and local residents who would have preferred the building return to housing a grocery store. The city is also concerned as the purchase by the county removes it as a commercial building from tax rolls.
At last Monday’s board meeting supervisors conferred with insurance agent Les Lampton about coverage for the building.
Lampton says the building is covered for four months under the county’s policy, however, at the end of that period the insurance will have to be converted to another policy, either as a vacant building or if construction has begun, a renovation policy. The county also has to carry risk insurance coverage to cover the portion of the building occupied by Smokey’s.

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