New Tupelo police station on hold
by Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
24 days ago | 2014 views | 10 10 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Two members of the Tupelo Police Department’s traffic division, Philip Sanderson, left, and Cleavon Smith do paperwork in their office. The entire division shares the office. They are trying to figure if they can fit one more desk in the small space so more officers can complete their work. (Thomas Wells)
TUPELO - Five years after the city approved funding for a new police station, the project remains shelved while Tupelo's finest continue to endure cramped working conditions.

The Tupelo Police Department's 136 employees have no central building to call home and work instead from two small outposts located several blocks from each other. Administration and patrol officers occupy the old jail on Front Street; detectives and records set up shop in a former Tupelo Water amp& Light office.

"It's not the greatest situation," said Chief Tony Carleton as he walked through the Front Street facility, which was built in 1966 and appears never to have been updated.

Heavy foot traffic has worn the baby blue carpet to a thread-bare sheath; drinking cups catch rainwater that seeps through the roof; administrators and secretaries work in converted jail cells; the front doors don't even close completely so lobby guests feel the weather - hot or cold.

City officials await the federal government's release of a seized warehouse they'll use as the site of the new headquarters, but it's unclear how much longer that will take. Tupelo has anticipated getting it "soon."

Even after they get it, it could take several more years before a new station emerges on the site, which is located on the corner of Front and Franklin streets. First, the old warehouse - a 100,000-square-foot building that formerly housed Milam Manufacturing and, more recently, contraband cigarettes - must be demolished. Then architects will design a new facility. Then the city will seek a contractor to do the work.

And it will need more money than what's left in its original allocation. The city had set aside $4 million out of a $9.5 million bond issue five years ago for the police station. Since then, however, a half million of those funds were diverted toward the North Gloster Street fire station project, whose costs ran over the projected budget, said City Clerk Kim Hanna.

Construction costs also have risen in the years since Tupelo first envisioned the project. Recent, but unofficial, estimates for the building now hover around $6 million. It's unclear where additional funds will come from, but no one has disputed the need for a new police station.

Plans for the facility were launched in the administration of former Mayor Ed Neelly, who lamented the fact Tupelo didn't have a proper police station. He wanted a showpiece, a building residents would admire, placed in a central location downtown.

But Neelly and the previous City Council couldn't decide on a site.

Since then, Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who took office in July 2009, has taken up the effort. When the federal government seized the old Milam plant in the contraband cigarette raid and told the city it could have it, Reed said the police station had found its site.

The city signed a Memorandum of Understanding to take over the building in December, but it's still waiting for final approval from the feds.

Until then, police officers and other senior law enforcement officials will have to make do.

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136 Full-time employees, including officers and administrators

25 volunteer reserve officers

73 vehicles, including cruisers, vans and bomb trucks

4 bicycles

3 Harley Davidsons
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January 13, 2012
Tupelo has a dysfunctional Government. It uses money to enhance the rich in town while making the rest much poorer.

It uses money to benefit main street businesses at the expense of the taxpayer. It tries to annex more land against public opinion at the expense of the taxpayer. It does not provide the minimum services such as water drainage and waste water but builds trees around the airport to hide the junk yard they recruited. It wastes money on added runway when we do not need it. It takes money from the building of the police department and uses it in parks and recreation. It builds roads and destroys wild life areas. It wastes money on the bought title of All American City. It can not hire more police or codes inspector but can have people run up and down steps and dance on the taxpayers dime. The schools are in shambles so they give the leader a golden parachute.

Then the crown of stupidity is borrow millions for a pool that loses money.

It is time for the public taxpayer to revolt and get have them investigated.
January 13, 2012
This city administration is saving a ton of money on the free PR department that the DJ provides...
January 13, 2012
Absolutely, it's so vanilla it almost comes across as propaganda.
January 13, 2012
Shame on us! Shamefully misplaced priorities and misallocated resources at City Hall. Where will the money come from, indeed? Site determination is for others, but waiting on the feds usually means a long, indefinite hold. How long is too long? I’d submit that we are well past that point today.

This article illustrates the problem but is a mite late coming. Why were these questions not explored during the DJ’s cheering for the Taj Mahal Aquatic Center? While there may, with an emphasis on may, be some justification for an aquatic center, there is no justification for placing that as a priority over a new police station. None whatsoever!

It was tragic that Ed Neelly was saddled with such an uncooperative, dysfunctional Council majority during his tenure. Sadder still that the present Council majority has been so cooperative in a dysfunctional symbiosis with the present Administration. Where is gridlock when we really need it?
January 13, 2012
Not real sure why a police department has to be a showplace. Thinking back, taxpayers bought the downtown mall for a one stop, city services building with plenty of parking for all. The City-County Jail was sold to the taxpayers as a.....dont need a new city police department since we will convert the jail cells into offices. And of the the City Services building that now houses some things and of course the move of city court from the old City-County Building (that was condemmed) but later made an uptown living quarters.

Some premium tax dollars spent along the way and still have not accomplished what was promised.

Save the taxpayers some money. If you get the old manufacturing building use it instead of tearing it down to build another. Already has plenty of warehouse space for seized property
January 13, 2012
Better yet... why don't the police take over the old CDF building since the CDF committee will be moving in the new CDF building? I wonder what will happen to the old CDF building.
January 13, 2012
I do understand the pool. The pool brings in tax dollars. I don't understand why we build a new police station with all the empty building around the downtown area. I think the police should take over the multimillion dollar CDF building just built!!!!
January 13, 2012
i can guarantee that the pool will be a burden for the city. costs will be greater than income. Just wait and see.
January 13, 2012
glad we have a pool though.........
January 13, 2012
Maybe the city can give them an office or two in the extremely critical swimming center. The pool complex is much more important than a police department.