Lowndes County supervisors unanimously agreed to allow 90 days for the owner of District Attorney Scott Colom’s new office space to fix a damaged wall before amending the county’s lease agreement on the building.
The board began discussing the issue on Friday when supervisors considered reducing the amount of rent paid on the building until the wall on the southeast corner of the Leigh building is repaired. They also considered withholding rent entirely until the building is fixed.
The building sits at 522 Second Ave. N. across from the Lowndes County Courthouse. The estate of Frank Leigh owns the building. The wall was damaged during the demolition of the adjacent Waters building in August — the exterior is missing, with only some sheetrock and studs in place behind plastic lining.
If the damage is not repaired within the 90 days, the county will have the option to withhold its $2,500 monthly rent or end the lease and seek to move the DA’s office elsewhere.
On Monday, District Attorney Scott Colom said he’s been in contact with Frances McCarty, who has power of attorney over the estate. He said she’s been trying to get the building repaired, but she first needs permission from the Columbus Historic Commission.
“She allowed us to move a lot of office furniture in there without paying any rent for that,” Colom said. “The issue now is she wants a significant amount of time to fix that wall not because she wants to delay. It’s just that she wants to be sure she can get that done.”
The DA’s office is moving to the Leigh building from its current home in the aging courthouse annex building on the western grounds of the courthouse. The lease on the building began on Oct. 1.
Lowndes County makes monthly rent payments, with reimbursements coming from the three other counties in the Mississippi 16th Judicial Circuit — including Oktibbeha (33.3 percent), Clay (15 percent) and Noxubee (9 percent). Lowndes County’s share of the lease is $1,067.50, or 42.7 percent.
Colom said the damaged wall doesn’t affect any of the office space and shouldn’t affect the temperature in the building until the winter. He said the only thing the office may need is a security system for if someone attempts to break before the wall is repaired.
District 3 Supervisor John Holliman said the project should be completed well within 90 days.
“It shouldn’t take them 90 days to do that,” he said. “Thirty days would be enough — you could build a whole building in 90 days.”
Colom said he doesn’t think the time frame should be an issue.
“I’m very confident that they’re going to get it done,” Colom said.
A Leigh estate representative declined to comment on Monday.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.