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Dave’s World

A photo taken in 1967 shows the newly constructed courthouse in Batesville with the old one looming in the background. The old courthouse, constructed in 1880, was demolished.

The governor’s race is heating up a little with Northern Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley joining the race. In a recent phone interview with a media outlet, Presley said he is a candidate for the working families in our state.

“I ain’t never owned a tennis racket, I ain’t never had a sweater wrapped around my waist and I ain’t never been a member of a country club,” Presley said. “I’m in Chickasaw County right now. I understand this fella going in there right now to get him a sausage and biscuit to go to work. When my name goes on that ballot, the working families of Mississippi’s names go on the ballot.”

Truth is, the odds of a Democratic candidate winning the race for Mississippi Governor are slim to none. Former Attorney General Hood came up short against Tate Reeves in the last election, and he was the strongest Democrat in the state.

I am probably among the few remaining people who still cast a vote based on the candidate instead of the party. It’s sad our country so divided. But enough about state or national politics, thankfully the focus of a small town newspaper is local events and politics, including county and city government. Some readers may not be interested in perusing the lengthy story about the water district funding on page 6, so I will share the meat of the matter.

The county received $2,351,837 of the $350 billion doled out in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for state and local governments. One-time money as it is frequently called, there are many needs in the county this money can be used for. Let’s start with the decision to allocate $200,000 for the Yalobusha Water and Sewer District. Pledging the county’s ARPA money is the only avenue for the water district to receive grant money from the state. The county commitment will allow the water district to apply for matching grant funds.

The independent water associations have a different avenue to apply for grants that doesn’t require the matching money. But the rub – it appears that many of the water associations were not awarded grant funding, at least in the first round of applications. I’m sure some of the water associations in the county have pressing demands to upgrade infrastructure, same as Yalobusha Water and Sewer District.

Now let’s look at another planned expenditure for the ARPA money, work on the county’s courthouses. Supervisors have allocated around $600,000 for this pressing need. The cost to replace windows and make other repairs at the county courthouses will be expensive. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History awarded a $191,275 grant to the county for window repairs at the Water Valley courthouse. The county had applied for grant funding for window repairs at both courthouses, work estimated to cost a half-million dollars, but only a portion of the grant was awarded.

The heating and cooling systems in the courthouses are over 20 years old and often have problems. The repairs to keep the buildings comfortable are costly and frequent. There are leaks too, I noticed water dripping in a five gallon bucket in the upstairs courtroom in Coffeeville during the last supervisor meeting.

The Water Valley courthouse was constructed in 1886, with modifications following a fire in 1913. At the time of the renovation in 2005, the upper floor of the three-story building was unusable due to serious structural deficiencies. The Coffeeville Courthouse was constructed in 1890. The 2005 restoration included removal of modern drop ceilings, restoration of the deteriorated floor structure and reorientation of the courthouse to the original layout.

It’s no secret that both courthouses were neglected for years before the renovations. The multi-million dollar renovation two decades ago was substantial, but it also takes ongoing investment to keep the two symbols of county government maintained. Preserving the courthouses in Water Valley and Coffeeville is important. The renovation of the Water Valley courthouse could be cited as one of the early projects that helped launch the revitalization of the city’s business district and Main Street.

I’ve heard some say both courthouses should have been demolished and one new one constructed centrally in the county. It might have worked on paper, savings as services would not be duplicated as they are now. But the courthouses are historical anchors for the communities and preserving them is important.

Have you ever visited the courthouse in Batesville. The “new” Batesville courthouse was constructed in 1967, replacing the earlier courthouse that was built in 1880. To say it is not much to look at is an understatement. Reminds me of the old saying, “They don’t make them like they used to.”

It’s also less expensive to perform regular maintenance on a building, than waiting until bigger problems emerge. That’s why I think investing ARPA money to maintain the county’s courthouses is a wise decision.

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