City Hall

City Hall

(Photo courtesy of the Starkville Dispatch) 

Carl Smith

Law enforcement agents are forecast to move into the newly renovated Starkville Police Department in May after aldermen unanimously tasked the Columbus-based Weathers Construction Inc. to rehabilitate the city’s former administrative home this month. Architect Gary Shafer said the $4.48 million project could begin Tuesday, with demolition efforts to follow later this month, and take nine months to complete. “May sounds like a great time to move back in,” SPD Chief Frank Nichols said after the board’s unanimous vote. “I’m proud of the city, the mayor and the board for moving forward on this issue.” As approved, the city’s contract with Weathers sets a $250-per-day fine if the project is delayed beyond the 270-day agreement. Aldermen also unanimously amended previous intent notices for $5.4 million in combined bonds, setting the financing package’s sale date to Sept. 6. Funds procured in the bond sale will help pay for SPD renovations. Previously, renovation bids came in almost $1 million over budget, but a scaled-back version of the project — the construction of a sallyport and exterior parking lot enclosure, and rehabilitation efforts for the former county youth court space were excluded from the re-bidding process — yielded eight bids at or below the $5.4 million mark. Hailed as a significant exercise in teamwork by board members, renovations to the former city hall represent Starkville’s solution for permanently housing its law enforcement agency. The issue plagued previous administrations for decades. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who previously stumped for a 1-mill tax increase to fund the improvements, thanked Mayor Parker Wiseman and each individual alderman for their determination to see the project to completion. He also noted Nichols’ and Shafer’s ability to develop a financially feasible product. “I’ve been a member of this board … in excess of 23 years. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for,” Perkins said. “We have endeavored to provide SPD with an exemplary, first-class facility. This process has been a very long and tedious road and journey.” While the project’s cost and overall financing differ by almost $1 million, Mayor Parker Wiseman said the additional funds will be used to pay fees for attorneys and bond writers; a $230,000 reimbursement to the general fund, which previously covered architectural fees; $130,000 for fixtures and furnishings; and contingency. “Construction is uncertain, particularly in historic renovations such as this. They’re about to go into that building and tear everything out of it. Nobody knows for sure what will be there until they do, but that’s why we pay the architect and the construction company the good money,” he said. If money remains in the budget after the project is complete, Wiseman previously said the city could turn back to the items excluded in the re-bidding process. SPD moved out of the former city hall — originally built as a National Guard armory — this summer ahead of anticipated construction efforts. The department’s headquarters and administration is housed at City Hall, while reporting and dispatch functions moved to the Starkville Sportsplex annex. Its investigations department is utilizing previously rented and newly leased office space at Synergetics, and other staff and operations occupy South Park Plaza commercial space on Louisville Street. SPD also operates two substations and utilizes a training area near the George M. Bryan Airport. Bookings and arrest processing occur at the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s taken a while to get used to, but we don’t want to get too comfortable,” Nichols said. “It’s been hard, but at the end of the day we have to look forward. We can’t dwell in the moment.” Nichols wins award Nichols recently became Mississippi’s first police chief to receive the Outstanding Professional Award from the Southern Criminal Justice Association. The award recognizes Nichols for his contributions to policing. He will travel to Savannah, Georgia, and receive the award on Sept. 9. “I’m honored to be the first chief of police in Mississippi to receive this award. I’m even more honored to be receiving this award by doing something I love, and that’s serving the public,” Nichols said. “I’m honored to represent Starkville.”

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch