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County leaders considering scrapping the building in hopes of a fresh start for prime location
By RUSSELL TURNER
The county-owned factory building in the center of Leakesville has served as both a burden and a political football for town and county leaders for decades. It appears that may be about to change.
County supervisors, four of whom are in their first term in office, say they are ready to move forward with a solution for the property, even if that means selling it for scrap metal and concrete prices and having it torn down and removed.
The deteriorating condition of the facility and lack of solid industrial prospects for it have been topics of discussion among supervisors off-and-on for months and came back to the table recently. That latest discussion led to Board of Supervisors President Elton Clark (Dist. 2) and county Economic Development Coordinator Danny Box meeting with the mayor and aldermen of the Town of Leakesville at the town council’s meeting last week and asking that the town relinquish its lease of the facility.
Town officials have been making monthly lease payments to the county since 2018 and paying for general upkeep and insurance on the facility. Leakesville Mayor George Perkins negotiated the deal in hopes of rehabilitating the factory and attracting retail clients. Town officials proposed a 12-year lease by the town for $7,500 per year with an option to purchase the property during that time frame for $120,000. During the term of the lease, the town would take on the expense of insuring the property and look for retailers that could boost sales tax revenues in the county seat.
Those efforts have not bore fruit and the condition of the facility has continued to deteriorate. The roof on the building, which was already in bad shape, sustained even more damage during Hurricane Zeta. With those factors in play, Clark’s request that town officials relinquish the lease was easily approved.
It is unclear what the next steps will be for county supervisors once the lease is officially terminated. However, supervisors have agreed during their discussions on the topic that the property is more valuable and more marketable as a blank slate, without the outdated factory building on it.
Ironically, supervisors had an offer of over $150,000 for the property back in 2018. They had declared the old factory building and a 39-acre former woodyard site in McLain as surplus property and offered each up for sale, lease or other viable proposals. They received a proposal from the Town of Leakesville and four others, including one from area businessman Arthur Sturdivant to purchase the building and the land for $151,200. However, citing what he called confusion and apparent tension among board members at the time, Sturdivant withdrew his proposal for the factory as well as his offer to purchase the 39-acre site in McLain for $58,500.
Other proposals for the building in 2018 included a $65,051 offer from local residents Al and Jolean Roberts and a $20,120 bid from L&D Scrap in Laurel for the rights to tear down the structure for the raw materials.
The factory property has been vacant since the departure of Value Line, Inc., a furniture company supervisors evicted from the facility in 2009.