Mary Holmes College campus in West Point has buyer


Jason Browne



WEST POINT -- The long-dormant Mary Holmes College campus in West Point is about to come back to life. 


Community Counseling Services has reached a deal to purchase the 184-acre campus for an undisclosed amount from the Presbyterian Church (USA). Susan Baker, chief operating officer for Community Counseling, said CCS hopes to close on the deal within the next 30 days and begin renovations on school buildings by July 1. 


A five-year plan for the school will see multiple buildings restored, including the renovation of the main academic hall into a Mary Holmes College museum and reunion hall. 


CCS will use the remaining buildings for administrative offices, recreation and some housing. Baker says the site may one day serve as CCS''s regional headquarters. Administrative offices for the seven-county organization are currently located on North Jackson Street in Starkville. 


There are no plans to close any CCS facilities. 


CCS provides mental health care, alcohol and drug counseling, and care for the intellectually developmentally disabled. Some housing will be available at Mary Holmes, but only as a supplement to facilities such as the alcohol and drug treatment centers for adult males and females in Columbus. 


Much of the renovation at Mary Holmes College will be performed by CCS''s in-house maintenance staff, but local contractors will also be used. 


"The agency has been in business for over 35 years and we are committed to the seven counties we serve. We use local tradesmen and buy locally whenever possible. This project will be a tremendous asset to the West Point community and will further assist the Growth Alliance, the county, and the city in attracting new businesses to West Point," said CCS Executive Director Jackie Edwards. 


The historically black college closed in 2005 after years of financial turmoil. It has since been used to house GED courses and the gym has hosted the West Point Park and Recreation Department youth and adult basketball programs for the past four years. Baker says the GED program will continue but she hasn''t been contacted by anyone with the city regarding use of the gym. 


The Park and Rec youth basketball program has hosted up to 400 children at times. 


West Point Mayor Scott Ross says the city didn''t play a major role in brokering the deal between CCS and the Presbyterian Church, but the deal is important for the economic and aesthetic vitality of the city. 


"It''s really exciting news. We''ve been hoping for a long time for a legitimate buyer who would have the resources to make the campus viable again and Community Counseling can do that," he said. "It''s hard to imagine there won''t be jobs created through this. Community Counseling does top-notch work wherever they go. They''re very creative." 


CCS is a public, nonprofit agency. It is not a state agency and the agency''s employees are not state employees.  


More than 90 percent of its revenue comes from fee-for-service, meaning that it is paid for the services provided in the same way local doctors or nurse practitioners are paid.  


"People often mistakenly think we receive a check from the state to provide services. This is not the case," said Baker. "The agency does receive a few grants, largely federal money and primarily designated for the provision of alcohol and drug services. We run our agency as a business and the result is the ability to provide quality services in quality facilities." 


In 1994, CCS partnered with Winston County to build and operate a 50-bed children''s hospital and residential treatment center. In 2006, the agency sold the facility and was able to reserve the proceeds of the sale until the right opportunity for another community investment came along. Baker says the Mary Holmes campus is that investment.




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