HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council voted to move forward with construction on the city's new public safety complex, but will cap construction costs at $32 million instead of the proposed $38 million.
"I think we've come up with a compromise to go ahead and get the police department and the court, start building on that," Councilman Carter Carroll said. "Purchase the materials that we need that are at a low price right now because of the fuel cost, and yet contain as much as we can of the taxpayers' money. So we have time later to have a public hearing."
Carroll said he is not sure what portion of the project will be put on hold now that the city will spend $6 million less.
"That's going to be up to architect and the council to look at," Carroll said. "I don't necessarily think we have to put in the fire administration building right now. There may be some parking lots. There might be some other buildings that don't have to go in right now. And, again, we are remodeling the building for the temporary police department, and once that's done and they move out, then that's space that some other facilities could do for a little while until we get things straight. So it's just a time to gather our thoughts and come up with the best financial decision we can."
Carroll is the council member who brought up a large tax increase would be needed to help cover operating costs of the new building if the city spent $38 million, but said he is not sure how much this new plan would increase taxes.
"I don't know how much that's going to be, but, you know, we have to be cognizant of that because we're also going up on water and sewer bills," he said. "We have to just be mindful of the citizens' dollars, and we have a lot of infrastructure we still need to build."
Council President Kim Bradley said, "The council is doing the best that it can given the hand that it's been given. We're going to play the hand the best that we can, and move the project forward, not kick it down the road like it's been done for so long. It has been kicked down the road. This is a stand to step up and begin that project. I support the police department, the fire department and those guys that works for us, but we do have to be concerned about those that are picking up ticket. That's the taxpayers. Sometimes, balancing that is difficult, but we're going to do the best that we can."
Carroll said he is excited the council is helping to give the Hattiesburg Police Department a better place to work.
"They've been needing this for over 20 years," he said. "This is a good step."