JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour is pushing for the state Department of Revenue to move from Clinton to downtown Jackson.
In a recent letter to lawmakers, Barbour said moving the department to Jackson’s Landmark Center would save money and help support the capital city.
According to The Clarion-Ledger, Barbour’s letter cites a building vacancy rate in Jackson of 27 percent as one reason for the move.
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. supports the relocation, which could bring hundreds of state employees to downtown.
“Leasing the Landmark building for this move is important for the city because it would keep the property on the tax roll and offset some of the cost of the city services that we currently provide for state agencies.”
The Legislature directed the Department of Finance and Administration to select a site on state-owned property. Barbour says he directed DFA to include other options, as well.
Barbour said the Landmark Center site would save taxpayers $16.7 million over a 20-year lease or $14.1 million over a 40-year lease.
He said it is important to the state’s overall image to support the capital city’s central business district and ensure it remains “healthy and economically viable.”
Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said the agency is looking at the space options in the Landmark building.
“We would like to move to an office building that would suit our agency’s and our taxpayers’ needs,” she said.
The department has been pushing for a new location for several years.
For the past decade, the agency has been housed in a metal building that was supposed to be a temporary site.
The building has been plagued with water leaks and other issues. In January, it had to be evacuated for several days after some workers became ill after smelling what seemed to be gas fumes, though no leak was discovered. Outside specialists were brought in to do testing before workers could return.
At least 14 employees had to go to local hospitals.
A proposal to construct a new building generated some controversy, particularly among northeast Jackson residents who did not want the building in their neighborhood.
As part of DFA’s review — which was contracted to the private Cushman & Wakefield firm — 11 private properties in Hinds County were evaluated through a submission process, as well as seven state-owned sites in the Jackson city limits.
DFA director Kevin Upchurch said the agency agrees the Landmark Center is the best option and should be secured through a lease or purchase “unless major issues are uncovered that have not been identified.”
“One additional issue that further supports pursuing the Landmark Center is timing,” he said. “It would take some four years to complete construction of a new building, whereas it would take less than two years to renovate the Landmark Center to meet the specific functional needs of DOR.”