- Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Congress has given final approval to $40.1 million to build a new federal courthouse in Greenville, Mississippi, to replace one that was built in 1959 and opened in 1960.

The General Services Administration said Thursday that the money is to acquire a site and to design and build a 62,000-square-foot courthouse that could be completed in 2021.

Mayor Errick D. Simmons said he expects the new courthouse to be built downtown, where the current one is also located. He said the investment is “huge” for the city of 32,100 residents.

“This will be an economic catalyst and perhaps a showcase building in the renovation, re-emergence and revitalization of downtown Greenville,” Simmons said Thursday.

The new building will have two courtrooms with three judicial chambers for the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi. The U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. attorney, the federal public defender and U.S. Probation Services will also have offices in the building.

There was public debate several years ago about building a new federal courthouse in Cleveland, about 35 miles to the north of Greenville. But, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson said Thursday the funding firmly resolves the discussion. Thompson said he met earlier this year with a GSA regional director who was in Greenville to talk to city and Washington County leaders and local business people about a possible site for the courthouse.

“A courthouse, as you know, is an economic engine for a community like Greenville,” Thompson said. “The city is anticipating restaurant development, hotel development.”

New and more secure federal courthouses have been built in the past 15 years in Jackson and Gulfport.

In a document describing the need for a new courthouse in Greenville, the GSA says the current one “lacks adequate security.” The new one will have separate elevators for prisoners, holding cells near courtrooms and separate entrances and hallways for judges, which the current one lacks.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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