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A courthouse in limbo

Walthall (Drew Powell, WTVA)
Walthall (Drew Powell, WTVA)
Reported by: Susan Parker
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Updated: 12/20/2013 10:17 pm
WALTHALL, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's a story Mary Lee Johnson loves to share.

"This used to be the old post office. There's a picture right here on the wall," Johnson said.

Her hair salon is across the street from the Webster County Courthouse, which is the same building that burned in January. The view has yet to change. She wishes it would.

She would like to see the old building restored.

Walthall Mayor Belinda Stewart wishes for progress.

"I thought by now we would see something coming along," Stewart said.

That's a feeling shared by District Four Supervisor Paul Crowley. He wants to see progress in the form of a courthouse-old or new. There's been a snag.

The insurance company wants to pay just $3 million-an amount the county does not believe is fair.

They're holding out for $7 million which is an estimate determined by a private adjuster.

"We're trying to do the right thing and do what the people want and build our people something or renovate a courthouse that will serve our people for an additional hundred years," Crowley said.

Even if they get what they want, there remains uncertainly about the existing building's usefulness in the modern age.

"I hate it happened and everything, but I think they need to build a new building," Eupora resident Christie Johnson said.

"It's a dear old thing, but I'd like to see a new one put up here," Walthall resident Susan Vaughn said.

Mayor Stewart does not agree.

"That building went through a six-hour fire and it's still fixable."

That decision is ultimately up to the County Board of Supervisors. They can decide to renovate the building or build a new one, but it has to be in Walthall which is the county seat.

The Walthall Board of Aldermen can prevent the structure from being torn down. They also have control of some 14 acres of land the county would like to acquire in Walthall.

"When all this is done, we're all gonna still be living together and we're gonna work this out together," Mayor Stewart added.

What's called a non-binding advisory resolution will be held in the spring.

Residents throughout the county will be able to offer their opinion in the form of a vote.
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