County renovates building for new court space as Old Waverly preps for thousands at U.S. Women’s Amateur
Several construction projects are under way in West Point and Clay County, including a $4 million new court complex on Main Street in West Point. The Mississippi Department of Transportation has also designated more than $1.75 million for road projects through its Emergency Road and Bridge repair program. And the entire region is expected to benefit from thousands of people traveling to Clay County and surrounding areas for the USGA’s 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship to be held at Old Waverly Golf Club.
A new court complex
Much of Clay County’s court system will move into a new building in West Point later this year.
Construction began last year on a new court complex on Main Street in an old grocery store building which the county purchased from Regional Mental Health Foundation in May 2018. The county is financing about $4 million in a lease-purchase agreement with Golden Triangle Planning and Development District.
The county bought the vacant building in April 2018 for $200,000 – less than half of what the cost would have been to construct a new building. Benchmark Construction Company is handling the renovations.
The new complex will house courtrooms and office spaces for Clay County’s circuit and justice courts, including offices for the circuit clerk and justice clerk. The chancery court and clerk’s office will remain in the county’s current building on Court Street.
Currently all the courts and clerks’ offices are held in the Court Street complex, which additionally houses the Tax Assessor’s Office. The building has only two courtrooms, and Chancery Clerk Amy Berry says during the first day of a term of circuit court, when up to 150 extra people show up for jury duty, the building is packed to capacity, and courthouse employees have to park several blocks away.
“There were safety concerns,” Berry said, adding there is only one set of stairs in the building easily accessible to the public. “There were space issues – plus trying to facilitate where they could have more criminal trials with the jury box, and then parking.”
The new building will have three courtrooms, two of which will hold jury boxes, meaning they can be used for trial courts. The third courtroom can house justice court or circuit court judges for hearings and other court business not requiring a jury.
Both Berry and Clay County Board of Supervisors President R.B. Davis emphasized that by renovating an already-existing building instead of constructing a new complex, the county is saving the taxpayers at least $4 million.
“I think the cost was more than double to build,” Berry said.
County officials are hopeful the courthouse will be completed in late spring or early summer, just in time for the June circuit court term.
‘Quite the crowd’ at Old Waverly Golf Tournament
The Golden Triangle is expecting several thousand people from all over the world for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament at Old Waverly Golf Club in August.
Old Waverly’s Director of Golf Chris Jester said the tournament will attract “quite a crowd” with 156 golfers to start out, along with their families, USGA golf officiants and fans attending to watch the tournament.
Jester said it’s an honor for Old Waverly to be chosen to host the tournament, which he said will see some of the best female amateur golfers in the world.
“Obviously we have a relationship with USGA, so that they think our course is good enough to hold a championship like this, that’s always nice,” Jester said. “And just knowing what it’s going to mean for the area and the state in general. ... It’s going to bring a lot of attention to the Golden Triangle and Mississippi in general.”
Old Waverly has already begun preparations, with a committee putting together hospitality services, player services, and course prep, Jester said. He anticipates there will be 300 volunteers who have helped put the event together by the time it’s over.
The tournament is Aug. 2-11. Registration and practice rounds will be held the first three days and stroke rounds will commence Aug. 5. Following two rounds of stroke play, the tournament will cut to 64 players beginning Aug. 7. Jester said there will be live converge of the tournament on Fox Sports 1.
This will be the first time in Old Waverly’s history that is has hosted the Women’s Amateur Championship. Waverly hosted the UCGA Women’s Open Tournament in 1999 and the Women’s Mid-Amateur (for players 25 and over) in 2006.
Jester said Old Waverly is inviting members of the public to attend the tournament, offering complimentary tickets. The event is family-friendly.
MDOT has earmarked more than $1.75 million to Clay County for work on two major roads as part of the MDOT Emergency Road and Bridge repair program.
Last year, the Mississippi Legislature delegated $250 million for the program, and counties competed for funding for different projects all over the state.
The larger of Clay’s two projects is a bridge repair on Caradine-County Line Road (Houston/Starkville Road) in the western part of the county. A 320-foot bridge on that road has been closed since last year due to structural damage. MDOT appointed $1.17 million to build a new bridge.
The other project, for which MDOT delegated $610,000, is a shorter bridge (less than 100 feet) on Mhoon Valley Road off Highway 50 in western Clay County. Like the bridge on Caradine-County Line Road, the bridge was closed last year until a new one could be built.
Story by Isabelle Altman
Main photo by Deanna Robinson; others by Austin Frayser