Diamondhead gets new city hall
By Jace Ponder
Jan 8, 2013, 17:32
As Diamondhead approaches its first anniversary, city hall will relocate to a new building with room to grow.
The city and Diamondhead Baptist Church reached an agreement last week allowing the city to lease the church for the next three years with the option to buy. At Monday's meeting, the council unanimously approved the agreement and authorized the first payment of $48,000. Council member Diane Ackerman recused herself from all proceedings regarding the church because she was a former member.
"It is with great sadness that the city loses a church," said Mayor Chuck Ingraham after the vote. "But there may be a blessing in here that the city will now get the church that is of great value to the city. We thank you."
For rent, the city has agreed to make the bond payments due to the church's bonding company, Reliance Trust Company. In all, the church owes just over $1 million.
Since last February, city hall operated out of 500 square feet of rented Property Owners Association offices. At first, the offices housed the city clerk and city manager, but the halls became choked with seven departments as the city grew.
The 28,400 square foot church sits on 5.3 acres of land and will allow the city departments to expand into their own respective spaces.
The chapel area of the church was built in 1980. A fellowship hall was added in 1987, and a two-story classroom wing was built in 2004.
Shortly after the last addition, membership began to fall. Although services were still being held as the church faced the possibility of missing payments, it approached the city in October about buying the property for the amount the church owed.
The city had been exploring possible city hall locations since June. Eley, Guild, Hardy Architects, of Biloxi, surveyed the city and found four possible locations including the church. The other options were the existing POA offices, the old Diamondhead Academy and the Sweatman Building by the bowling alley.
The church was the best option at costs-per-square-foot and quality of construction, firm partner David Hardy told the board.
In October, the city authorized Myers and Company, Inc., of Ocean Springs, to appraise the church. The report listed the church's value at about $2.5 million.
"It's a very sad day for the church," said city attorney Bragg Williams. "The city is very grateful, as I am sure all the citizens of Diamondhead are for their selfless decision."
City Manager Richard Rose said the city would move in at the beginning of February. Architects are currently planning where offices will be and addressing both immediate and long term needs, he said.
The city also bought the contents of the building for about $22,000. The bill of sale lists five pages of goods from office furniture and kitchen equipment to sound systems and pianos. It also includes a pool table, air hockey table, and a large gas grill.
Rose said the pianos and table games could be made available in a public activity area where piano lessons could be taught.
Workers in the newly created public works department were on site Tuesday cleaning the grounds. They also removed the church steeple.
Also at Monday's meeting, the city council accepted the dedication of POA roads and rights-of-way.
The transfer is the culmination of months of work between the city and POA. As the council read through resolutions, legal orders and an 86-page deed, POA President Marshall Kyger joked that it was hard to give something away.
"We joke about the lawyers and the work that was necessary," said Mayor Ingraham. "At every step of the way we found an 'oh-my-gosh.'"
Bizarre things like roads that were not on the map and had to be surveyed, he said.
The POA also transferred maintenance equipment like tractors and chain saws along with several pick-up trucks.
In other action:
• Rose said 13 pubic works employees were hired from the POA. Former Biloxi public works director Richard Sullivan was hired as Diamondhead's public works director, he said.
• The mayor announced that he would be running re-election in the upcoming primaries. Council member Ron Rech will run for Ward 4 and Ernie Knobloch for Councilman-at-large, he said. All are on the Republican ticket, he said.
• The council appointed Paul Montjoy as city beautification chairman and representative to the Hancock Chamber Beautification Committee.