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

Norman Roofing out of Meridian submitted the $196,500 bid. The roof repair will be on the B section of the building, which has experienced significant leaks recently during heavy rains.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the bid, which was one of six submitted.

Others bidders were: G & G Sheet Metal in the total amount of $211,000, R & R Sheet Metal, $305,603, RE Ammon Roofing, $257,500, Dixie Roofing, $275,000 and McGee's Roofing and Remodeling, $315,000.

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.

Community Development Partnership President David Vowell said the repairs are necessary to ensure La-Z-Boy continues with its arrangement with the city.

"It is important to them and to us that we keep their inventory safe," Vowell said.

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.

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.

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, 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.

“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.