Carr owner gets another deadline for work

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

[12/17/03]The owner of the former Carr building has six weeks to board up the vacant school or face fines.

Community Court Judge Mack Varner told owner Robert Rosenthal he’ll owe $1,000, the maximum penalty allowed, due to the broken windows, leaking walls and open doorways to the school complex on Cherry Street.

Varner suspended the sentence providing Rosenthal could have repairs completed by Feb. 3.

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At a brief hearing Tuesday, Rosenthal, a local businessman, said he has tried to secure the structure, but vandals continue to break in. He also said the cost of waterproofing it would be $350,000, plus the cost of a new roof.

“I’d rather give it back to the city,” Rosenthal said.

The deed was transferred to Rosenthal five years ago with plans to convert the structure into elderly housing. He has applied for tax credits through the Mississippi Home Corporation every year since, but has been turned down for funding, and no work has been done.

Under terms of the deal, Rosenthal paid $105,000 for the school, but the city could buy it back for $45,000 if nothing was done in a year. Mayor Laurence Leyens, who testified during the hearing, said the city has no interest in acquiring it back.

“We made an effort to do everything Mr. Rosenthal has asked to help him get funding, but after three rounds he has failed,” Leyens said.

Varner said that Rosenthal would not have to replace all the windows to comply with his order, but would have to board up the building and secure all doors. Leyens said that if the work is not done, the city board could have the work done and assess that cost to the taxes on the property.

“The city wants that building secure,” Varner said. “If you have to put up iron bars, that’s what you have to do.”

Varner suspended a previous $1,000 fine against Rosenthal after the school grounds were cut and cleaned last week. The city board had previously assessed $10,000 against the property for the cleanup of a burned-out gym behind the main school building.

“I just feel like I’m being punished for trying to do something good,” Rosenthal said after court. “I’m tired of being dragged in here. I’m not a criminal.”

The Carr building, named for early Vicksburg professor J.P. Carr, opened in 1924 and was declared a protected state historical property in 1994, adding to the complications associated with renovation.

It cannot be demolished without state approval, and any changes to the structure have to be approved by the Department of Archives and History.

The city board created the Vicksburg Community Court to resolve code violations ranging from zoning matters to building requirements.