It will be at least another month before the Meridian City Council will consider the sale of the old police station on 6th Street for use as a microbrewery's tasting room.
After a Monday morning work session, Ward 5 City Councilman Weston Lindemann said he wants to review the results of a student-led Mississippi State University feasibility study before moving forward. The study is scheduled to publish next month and will provide potential uses for the building as determined by MSU architecture students.
At the March 6 City Council meeting, Lindemann tabled a motion to sell the building to Threefoot Brewery owner John Purdy, who wants to buy the building for about $45,000.
Purdy’s plans are to convert the courtroom area into a tap room and the additional space to other businesses.
Lindemann believes Purdy might not be the only interested party, and the study might reveal a better use for the building. Plus, the study began before Purdy made an offer on the building.
“I’m going to let the educational process play out,” Lindemann said during his lunch break, adding that he would like the council to consider “surplussing the building and entertaining the offers that come at that point.”
“There’s been so many inconsistencies," Lindemann said. "We have not gone about this process in what I believe is the appropriate way.”
During the work session, Purdy said he would take his business elsewhere if the sale is delayed for too long — even if that means moving to another city.
“I would be extremely disappointed — I want to be in Meridian,” Purdy said. “…I have a business, and I need to continue moving forward.”
After several minutes of discussion, City Council President and Ward 1 City Councilman George Thomas became frustrated.
“I have never seen a definite offer for that building — period,” Thomas said. “… You’ve got a young fella here willing to open a business, pay for the building. It takes it off our insurance, takes it off our utilities … As far as I’m concerned you can study it for 40 more years, but we need to move. It’s nice to plan, but it’s time to move, folks.”
Archie McDonnell of Citizen’s National Bank attended the work session to support Purdy’s efforts. Toward the end of the discussion, he was allowed the opportunity to weigh in.
“We are always talking about how we want to be pro-business, and you’ve got a guy who is sitting here who wants to put the money in to produce something, which is key,” McDonnell said. “It means jobs. It means producing something that is going to be produced around the state and around this region, so I’d just like to encourage you to walk the walk. If we’re going to be pro-business, you’ve got a guy that wants to start a business and produce something. Let the man get on with it.”
The potential sale of the building has gained controversy over the last couple of weeks because the council felt it was blindsided by the administration.
Ward 4 City Councilwoman Kim Houston and Lindemann both said they needed more than just a few days notice.
“Maybe there was a for-sale sign that I missed,” Houston said at a previous meeting. “I didn’t even know it was available for someone to purchase.”
Houston said the item had not been included on any recent work session agendas, which didn’t give her or the rest of the council enough time to study the proposal.
“I’m not totally against it, but I do want to have more detailed discussion about who, what, when, where and why because I thought we had a completely different vision about downtown,” Houston said. “There are just a lot of unknowns for us to just jump into this.”
Mayor Percy Bland said previously he takes full responsibility for not giving the council enough time to review the proposal, but he feels this is “a positive” move for Meridian, as the contract also includes a 36-month reverter clause.
“I do think the city council will agree with me that this is an economic development opportunity for the city, especially when you have someone locally who is willing to invest, and the city looks forward to seeing this opportunity move forward,” the mayor said in a previous report.