Should Diamondhead purchase its current city hall?

DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - Diamondhead leaders are waiting to find out if they can go forward with borrowing $1.6 million to buy and renovate their city hall building.

City Hall is in the old Diamondhead Baptist Church, but a citizens group challenged the purchase. Both sides made their arguments in court last week, but the debate in town is far from over.

"When you look through it, it fits the needs of the city for the next 30 to 50 years. So we think it's a wise move," said Ernie Knobolch, Diamondhead Councilman At Large Elect.

Before the city stepped up to purchase the church building, it was about go into foreclosure. Former mayoral candidate John Fletcher believes the city should have waited.

"Looks to me if they let it go into default, we'd be better. And we'd be able to pick it up for 10 or 20 cents on a dollar, instead of paying the full price on this thing," said Fletcher.

At 28,000 square feet, many say the building is just too big and too costly.

"I went on the tour when they had the opening of city hall and the facility is very big, and I'm not sure we need all that space. But I guess price per square footage it seems like a good deal," explained Resident Sharon Koger. "But people don't want to pay the money for it here. We've been hit with increased taxes because of the formation of the city, so I think a lot of people are against any increase and that's what a bond would bring."

"As a citizen, we haven't leveled off what our costs are going to be for just being a city yet," resident Kathryn Larsen said. "So I'm concerned about the cost, yes."

Others say the city needs a large government center.

"To duplicate the facility would cost over $3 million. Some of the naysayers say it's too big. How do they know? Sure, we're going to have to pay for it and we'll be able to pay for it. Just give it time," said resident Ed Rountree.

Leaders say the city purchasing the building is a win-win. Giving the city an operating hub and keeping a huge property from sitting in foreclosure.

Judge Jennifer Schloegel will have the final say. No word on when her ruling will be announced.

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