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Roughing it in exile

If you like the sound of rain on a tin roof, a job at the Mississippi Department of Revenue building in Raymond may be just the ticket.
Of course, the downside is you’ll work in a cavernous warehouse with concrete floors and 40-foot ceilings where some parts of the building are too hot and other parts too cold – and touching the thermostat is a serious no-no. And you’ll have to get use to intruders such as such as birds, vermin and snakes.
Such is life in exile for the approximately 500 employees of the Department of Revenue. They’ve been working out of a 160,000-square-foot aluminum warehouse at 1577 Springridge Road built by Entergy 30 years ago as a storage building during construction of the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. The state looked at the more accommodating former WorldCom headquarters in Clinton but the asking rent put the building out of reach.
State officials planned the move to the Raymond quarters as a three-to-four-year stay while the department’s former home in downtown’s Woolfolk State Office Building underwent renovation. “Fifteen years later we’re still located in the same location,” said Ed Morgan, commissioner of revenue.
How bad has Morgan wanted out of the over-sized storage shed?
He’s talked, he said, to “everybody and anybody that had a location or a suspected location.”
Now it’s up to the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, which serves as the state’s property manager, to find his department a new home. Legislators have directed the department to select a site by Oct. 1.
Even with momentum toward a move, Revenue Department employees are braced for at least a few more years in Raymond. They’re hoping, however, for a bit less workplace excitement, said Kathy Waterbury, department spokeswoman.
In the bitter cold of January, natural gas from the 36 heating units surrounding the building began leaking inside – or at least the mercapton odorant added to natural gas began pervading the building’s interior. Evacuation of the building was followed by a shut down of several days. “Everybody on God’s Earth was here,” Waterbury said of the investigation that followed.
Workers installed new gas lines and refurbished the heating units. Department brass enacted a “no-touch” policy on the thermostats, figuring that too much meddling with the temperature settings had caused the pilot lines to fail to catch up with each new setting, causing the leaks to occur.
With the computer controlled settings, “folks in one part of the building were burning up and in other parts freezing,” Waterbury said. “They would do the manual overrides.”
Now the thermostats are watched so closely they might as well be protected by barbed wire, she added.
Meanwhile, the snakes that sneak in are not generating much goodwill toward the building. “I had a snake outside my office door,” Waterbury said, noting it turned out to be non-poisonous but deadly nonetheless to her emotional well-being.
“The attorney down the hall was screaming: A snake! A snake! I was literally standing on my desk.”
Another attorney from a nearby office grabbed the reptile and took it outside and set it free. Turns out it was a king snake, Waterbury said.
What made the sight of the snake slithering down the hallway so scary, she said, “Is that we have had poisonous snakes in the building.”
Other creatures have found comfort in the building, as well. “We, on a daily basis, have birds flying around the building. We have all kinds of vermin.”
She said she was told that the advantage to having the snakes is that they would take care of the rodents.


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