An original $100,000 USDA grant proposal to renovate a portion of the old U.S. Motors building has turned into an award of $200,000.

The funds will be used to renovate a portion of the old U.S. Motors building, including an elevator to make the second floor handicap accessible, as well as provide additional space for the Neshoba County Business Enterprise Center's business incubator program.

The original grant proposal was for $100,000, with the city of Philadelphia providing a $16,667 cash investment and the county providing a $16,667 in-kind contribution for renovations to the parking lot and entry way, according to Community Development Partnership President David Vowell.

The second $100,000 came about due to fortuitous circumstances, Vowell said.

"We got a phone call from John Rounsaville with USDA Rural Development," Vowell said. "He said that there was an additional $100,000 available from another community that didn't get its grant proposal in, he asked if we had a appropriate project for the funds."

Vowell said that the second $100,000 could be used for another workforce development project, possibly in conjunction with East Central Community College.

While the first $100,000 grant required a 25 percent match, Vowell said the second $100,000 does not require a community match.

"Including the city and county match, we will have $233,334 total available," Vowell said.

According to Steve Murray, chairman of the Board of Directors for the NCBEC, half of the original $100,000 would be used to install an elevator and make the second floor of the building handicap accessible. The remaining funds will go towards interior cosmetic renovations, HVAC and the parking lot.

Currently, La-Z-Boy and East Central Community College occupy the space. The incubator center has been full for three years and they need the space to expand the program.

Murray said the former U.S. Motors plant is in excess of 400,000 square feet. Murray said the front part of the building has a lot of office space and goal is to make as much use as possible out of that space. A prior renovation created administrative offices which is now used by ECCC.

“The goal now is to renovate more of the original office space and have it available for the incubator program,” Murray said. “It would be nice office space and could result in at least 15 additional jobs, if we can get that space renovated,” he said.

Vowell said that Larry Singleton will be the architect on the project. Vowell said he believed the project to renovate the U.S. Motors building will move fairly quickly although he did not provide a specific date for completion.

The city recently approved a nearly $200,000 bid to repair the roof at the old U.S. Motors building.

The repair is necessary, according to Mayor James A. Young, due to significant leaking in the building which currently houses La-Z-Boy storage.

The city owes the state more than $1 million for work on the city-owned building under the failed AlphaGen project in which both city and county officials were duped by the lure of federal monies under the Obama administration that never materialized.

Discussion on fixing the roof has been ongoing for some time but came to a head this year when heavy rains caused problems in the facility, specifically in the space being leased by La-Z-Boy.

In April, heavy rains caused water to leak into that section of the facility.

“When they (La-Z-Boy) turned the power on in B section it shorted out,” City Building Official Jay Eakes said during the Board's May 1 meeting. “They lost all communications and power, and no lights for about three or four days.”

Eakes said power had been restored but that a large number of lights had shorted out and would need to be replaced at that time.

“I don’t know what to do except fix it,” he said then.

Eakes said that the A section of the structure has a new roof, but B and C sections have ongoing roof leaks with section B being the worst. He said that crews have been regularly sealing leaks in the roof, especially during the summer months, but the roofs are over 60 years old.

La-Z-Boy in February renewed a one-year $150,000 annual lease agreement allowing the company or the city to opt out with a 90-day notice, Attorney Robert Thomas told the board then.

The deal then was dependent on the city repairing leaks.

“We need to bring the building up to a workable standard that will keep their product protected,” Young said a year ago.

Under a 2010 agreement with Mississippi Development Authority, manufacturer AlphaGen pledged to create 200 jobs by November 2015 in exchange for $1 million to go toward facility renovations.

Since the jobs weren’t created, the city may have to repay the $1 million grant connected to the failed AlphaGen project, a state official told the Democrat in December 2015.

Mississippi Development Authority representative Jeff Rent said if the city cannot find a "suitable replacement" to create jobs, the city would have to return the money.

Before the AlphaGen agreement, Taylor and La-Z-Boy had leased the building from the city for $160,000 annually combined.

Once they relocated, utilities on the building had cost the city nearly $2,000 monthly before they were eventually turned off.

In 2014, an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 in copper was stolen from the facility.

The city received over $300,000 in insurance monies to purchase and install the new copper and get the utilities back on.