Supervisors OK chancery building plans
By Errol Castens
OXFORD - Lafayette County supervisors got an eyeful of details Tuesday as architects presented nearly complete plans for the chancery court building proposed for construction on North Lamar Boulevard.
The two-story, 130-foot-long structure is expected to alleviate overcrowding and continuing maintenance problems in the 130-year-old courthouse on the Square. Most county offices in the current courthouse including tax assessor-collector, chancery clerk, county planner and purchasing will move to the new edifice, to be built on the sites of the old jail and the former James Food Center. Justice courts will also have a courtroom and office space in the neo-Colonial structure.
Columns, a 12-foot-deep porch, metal gridwork reminiscent of magnolia blossoms and possibly twin balconies will keep the building in character with other architecture in Oxford, said Michael Jones of Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel in Tupelo. The rear of the building will also feature a green space.
"We designed it to look like a Mississippi building," he said.
Computer-guided climate control will offer extra comfort and efficiency, Jones said, with a system that will cool or heat rooms just in time for scheduled use. In step with modern codes, outside air will be brought into every room.
"Without fresh, outside air," he said, "you see people getting sick again and again."
The two courtrooms, which will each accommodate more than 100 people, will feature sound systems, projection screens and computer connections.
After a recent $40,000 paint job to the relatively new Lafayette County Detention Center, supervisors were eager to employ all the brick, cast stone and other durable surfaces they could on the chancery building's exterior.
"I'd like to see something we didn't have to paint," said District 4 Supervisor Keith Brown.
The project will be advertised later this week, with bids to be opened March 30. The board will have 45 days to accept a winning bid, but if it acts more quickly construction could begin as early as April.
While the county's circuit court and election commissioners will remain in the present courthouse, no firm plans have been made for the portions of the building to be vacated. A local historical society has asked for space to establish a museum, but supervisors have given mixed reviews of the idea.