By PAUL SIMS
MABEN — The building known for more than three decades as Town Hall came crumbling down just after 9:35 a.m. Monday to make way for a new structure.
After just a few minutes of a machine’s blade pounding against the northern brick wall, Town Hall for this community of 803 quickly became a pile of rubble.
Speaking just a few minutes before the demolition began, Town Clerk Barbara McCluskey, who has served in her role for about 30 years, talked about the building which had been “like a second home.”
She described the moment as sad but noted what is to come is a “well-needed change.”
Town officials studied how to address moisture problems and make the building accessible to those with disabilities, said Mayor Larry Pruitt.
They had in hand a $100,000 Small Municipalities Grant through the Mississippi Development Authority and $50,000 from Lloyd Cummins, who willed the city the money specifically to build a town hall.
“Back when he thought about it $50,000 might have built a city hall,” the mayor said.
But the $150,000 “wouldn’t do the complete renovation,” Pruitt said. “The board just decided ‘let’s not waste money trying to renovate.’”
The town has since obtained another $100,000 MDA grant and a $60,000 Rural Development grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What became Town Hall was once two separate buildings. In 1964, John and Marjorie Tenhet built a building where they used the upper floor for an appliance repair business and the basement as their dwelling, Pruitt said.
At some point, the lower building and the upper one, which once housed the Maben Press newspaper, were connected.
Thomas Pate also used the lower section for his insurance business at one time, the mayor said.
It became City Hall some time in the 1970s.
The new building will hold offices for two clerks, the Police Department, space for Municipal Court and the Board of Aldermen, disability-accessible restrooms, a copy room and a file room.
The building will have a brick facade on three sides and a pitched metal roof.
“I think we can build a building that will cut down on costs and prepare for the future where the town can spend money on other facilities such as its library and parks and beautification,” Pruitt said.
Town Hall is operating in a temporary location at the former O.L. Wicks School, about a quarter-mile north of the old Town Hall. Pruitt hopes the new building will be complete by fall.