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John Howell’s Column

County office building a common sense suggestion

For Panola Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock, it’s a no-brainer: Buy the best-suited available land in a central part of the county and build a county office building sufficient to house all county offices and courts. Pitcock said that County Administrator David Chandler has put a pencil to it. Annual savings in insurance, maintenance cost, and utilities would themselves total $300,000, Pitcock said.

Additional savings would come from eliminating the expensive duplication of county offices in courthouses in Sardis and Batesville.

Pitcock is not advocating the elimination of either town as a county seat. The First and Second Court Districts would remain intact; the school districts would stay just like they are.

All he is recommending is a county office building.

“We’ve got one jail, and that works just fine,” Pitcock said.

Pitcock points to present overcrowding in both courthouses. With increased interest in the meetings of the Panola County Board of Supervisors, the small meeting rooms are not sufficient. If no court is in session, the meeting can move into vacant courtrooms.

However, as the dockets of  chancery and circuit courts have grown in recent years, there are few days when that space is available.

The present courthouses could be offered for sale to the municipalities in which they are located or could be reserved for one specific county function, Pitcock said. The move to one new county office building would reduce county personnel cost, Pitcock said, but he would not eliminate any present employees.

Instead, he would not replace those who retire or left for other reasons, trimming down staff by attrition.

Pitcock has voiced a strong recommendation on a subject that many county politicians have always considered taboo. Supervisors need to give careful consideration to acquiring land and building  one, centrally-located county office building. It makes sense. It’s a good business decision. Let’s hear it discussed.