Judge Price fines owners of former mall building

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 2, 2003

[06/1/03] The owners of the former Battlefield Village mall building were sentenced Friday to pay $5,000 in fines plus court costs for violations of the city’s fire-protection code.

Warren County Court Judge Johnny Price gave J&V Properties of Jackson, owners of the North Frontage Road property, and Jimmy Coggins, J&V’s agent, 30 days to pay. Price had found them guilty three weeks ago of five counts of violating the National Fire Protection Association code, which is part of city law, associated with the non-functioning sprinkler system in the main mall building.

Price also ruled Coggins individually responsible as the company’s agent. Coggins did not appear before Price at any of the three hearings on this matter.

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“In my opinion, the city can bring criminal charges against the individual who is in charge of the property,” Price said.

J&V had appealed the decision of Vicksburg Community Court Judge Mack Varner in December after he fined the owners $5,000 and a $200-a-day fine until a 24-hour fire-watch was posted on the property. In the appeal to county court, Price did not address the issue of a fire-watch.

In separate legal proceedings in Warren County Circuit Court this month, Judge Isadore Patrick ruled that the city’s order to take down the 42-year-old structure was proper. City officials have said they plan to take action based on that ruling, but both rulings can be appealed to a higher court, which would further delay action on the property.

The property, which is visible from Interstate 20, has been vacant since the last major tenants, the Corps of Engineers, moved out six years ago. Since then, the property has been for sale and has been set for demolition by the city multiple times, but action has been delayed each time with promises of a deal in the works.

One of those potential deals was for The Home Depot which built on vacant property off South Frontage Road near Halls Ferry Park. Another deal which did go through was the sale of one of the outparcel buildings which has since been renovated and opened as an all-terrain vehicle shop.

Two other outparcel buildings have been torn down by the owner, but the rest of the property has been deemed “unsafe or unfit for human occupancy” by the city’s building inspection department, which cited problems associated with the structure, including a lack of water to the building’s fire sprinkler system, damage to the roof and vegetation on the outside.

City officials have also complained about piles of debris left after the former bank and movie theater were taken down.

Battlefield was among the first and one of the largest malls in Mississippi when built. Its major stores, such as McRae’s, Sears, Kroger and Walgreen’s, were joined by smaller specialty shops and a restaurant. It emptied quickly after Pemberton Square mall opened in 1985.