Gulfport Negotiates To Buy Food World Building

Nobody questions whether the Gulfport police department has outgrown its downtown headquarters. After all, officers are spread out among four different buildings.

What councilman Chuck Teston questions is whether buying the empty Food World building can be a cost effective solution to the police department's woes.

"I don't know where we would get the money," the councilman said, after his colleages approved a plan to negotiate a deal for the building. "Show me the money and Chuck is ready to move."

Teston was told by Mayor Ken Combs that refurbishing the building behind me could cost anywhere from $3.5-$5 million. Because of Gulfport's recent financial struggles, that's an expense the ward six councilman can't justify right now.

"What we're doing is we're doing voodoo economics. And we better be very careful," warned Teston. "You've got to have the money to do those type things. Give me the money first, and we'll start the move."

Council president Jimmie Jenkins supported the 4-2 decision to negotiate a Food World purchase price.

"I'm hoping that some doors will open for the city to go into that building without putting us further in financial difficulty," Jenkins said.

Jenkins is writing letters to Trent Lott and Gene Taylor. He's hoping they can find some homeland security or public safety money. That way, the federal government can offset some of Gulfport's cost of moving the police department into a centralized location.

Guardian Life controls the Food World property. According to Monday's council action, negotiations between Gulfport attorneys and Guardian Life are supposed to begin after May first.