New Office Building Leaves Folks Wary - - The News for South Mississippi

New Office Building Leaves Folks Wary

The General Services Administration wasn't surprised when no one offered to build a new FBI office in downtown Hattiesburg. The GSA's Tom Walker said since the Sept. 11 terrorist, a lot of builders, developers and property owners are skittish about government offices. The FBI's Hattiesburg office, a fixture of the William M. Colmer Federal Building in downtown for more than 20 years, will move to a new location on U.S. 98 West by the middle of February.

The GSA selects the locations for all the bureau's offices and puts out bids in the market for its construction projects with local firms. Walker, assistant regional administrator for public buildings, said the office would have stayed downtown had a Hattiesburg builder come forward to take the bid. But none did. ``We did not get any offers from within the commercial business area,'' Walker said. That was no surprise, Walker said. ``Since 9-11 we don't always get a lot of competition for FBI and DEA buildings,'' Walker said. ``With increased risks of terrorist attacks, building owners don't necessarily want government law-enforcement agencies in their buildings. It's kind of unfortunate, but it's the world we live in.'' The new two-agent FBI office will be 2,700 square feet, allowing room for any later expansion. He said the new office will give the agency more room to accommodate the FBIs growing array of technology used in its investigations as well as other amenities, including bullet-resistant enclosure glass, interview rooms and a kitchen.

The GSA will pay $72,736 per year on the 10-year lease on the building. Senior Resident Agent Dreg Mandich said moving the office from downtown Hattiesburg, where the federal court and other governmental agencies are located, to Hattiesburg's suburbs would not hurt the FBI's effectiveness in the city. The federal court will use the space left behind for waiting rooms, filing and equipment storage and related functions, said J.T. Noblin, court clerk for the southern district of Mississippi.

The headquarters for the FBI in Mississippi is its field office in Jackson. There are 10 smaller resident agencies, like the one in Hattiesburg, throughout the state.

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