Two Courthouses, One County

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CHICKASAW COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – Two courthouses in one county.

It’s been that way for years in Chickasaw County.

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Some residents believe it’s time to consolidate the two. Others believe the current system works well enough.

The Chickasaw Development Foundation recently conducted a survey to find out what residents think about the idea of consolidating the two judicial districts.

There were over 300 responses.

The Chickasaw Development Foundation executive director presented the results to the board of supervisors Tuesday morning.

Supervisors voted three to two to take the study under consideration to see if it’s worth taking the matter further.

The courthouse history in Chickasaw County is unique.

One courthouse sits in Houston and the other sits in Okolona.

Chickasaw Development Foundation Executive Director, Sean Johnson, believes there should just be one.

“The question is, you know, should we have one strong county seat or two weak county seats? We are both in situations where we’re losing population and tax base and so forth, and we need to make some changes now, and I believe that consolidating the county seats either here, or in Okolona, would be a good start,” said Johnson.

Johnson says the foundation recently did a survey asking residents what they thought.

He said 90% were for it, 7% were against and 3% didn’t answer.

District 4 Supervisor Jerry Hall says that information is false and misleading.

“I talked to 24 people last Thursday, that called and said they didn’t even know the survey was going on, where did they get the survey, and supposedly it was on the internet, and 65% of the people in our area don’t even have access to Internet,” said Hall.

Johnson says the consolidation would save the county money.

Hall on the other-hand, doesn’t see it that way.

“There again, it goes back to the money, $5 million every 10 years that we’re losing that could be going into roads, recreational development, economic development. I can think of a million other ways to spend that money,” says Johnson.

“The personnel would have to continue to serve Chickasaw County as an employee and where are you going to put them in this building? You’re going to have to go out on the square, rent, buy, or rent a half a million dollar building, renovate it. You’re not going to save money,” says Hall.

The county currently owns the second floor of the courthouse in Okolona and rents space on the first floor from the Masonic Lodge, who owns the rest of the building.

Johnson says Chickasaw County is one of a few counties in the state to have two judicial districts.

“All of them except for one are distressed and one of the departments in Jackson I spoke with says when we do this, it will be a precedent. It will be a first time situation, so they are excited about the prospect because this could help bring those other counties up as well, if they decided to pursue the same action,” said Johnson.

“It’s always an outsider that comes into your county wanting to cause division and ill-wills, feelings you can’t straighten out in a lifetime,” says Hall.