Recent heavy rains wreaked havoc on the former U.S. Motors building roof, shorting out electricity and communications over several days.

Work to repair the damage in the now city-owned building occupied by La-Z-Boy and East Central Community College is ongoing, according to City Building Official Jay Eakes.

Eakes told the board last Tuesday that the most recent heavy rain during the weekend of April 21-22 caused water to leak through the roof in what is known as the the B Section of the facility, which houses La-Z-Boy.

“When they (La-Z-Boy) turned the power on in B section it shorted out,” Eakes said. “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.

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

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.

Mayor James A. Young said that work on the roof has involved ongoing patching and sealing leaks when they are discovered.

A $100,000 USDA grant is being sought to renovate a portion of the building, including an elevator to make the second floor handicap accessible.

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.

In March 2016, city officials, Community Development Partnership President David Vowell and La-Z-Boy representatives discussed details in an executive session under “an industrial matter.”

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.

The roof of the building is riddled with leaks but Young said then that the repair project they would be looking at  would be minimal.

“Hopefully if everything comes in like we want it to we could have them in there in just a few weeks,” Young said last year.

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 renovations of the facility.

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.