City’s inspection power real, but used too little|OUR OPINION

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 28, 2008

Employees of the Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have comfortable working spaces in an 11-year-old building on East Clay Street because of one thing: About 15 years ago, inspectors of the Vicksburg Planning Department mustered the courage to condemn Walnut Towers, a disgraceful structure built on the cheap at Walnut and Crawford streets — and since torn down before it could fall down.

The federal employees first moved to the former Battlefield Village mall before their landlord, the General Services Administration, arranged for the new structure.

Last week, city inspectors again deemed a structure unfit for human habitation. This time it was the century-old Speed Street School building, converted into apartments at least 60 years ago and operated with taxpayers paying all but a pittance of the monthly rent owed by low-income tenants.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The conditions inside the structure were abysmal. The city could and should have acted sooner, but as it turns out, the condemnation order appears to be moot. Seems the former landlord has sold to a new landlord who has not qualified (yet) with the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority for subsidies — so tenants were already packing to leave as inspectors toured.

But what the two situations illustrate — or should — is that the little old City of Vicksburg has near plenary authority over health and safety codes. The United States of America couldn’t trump a city housing inspector. The Mississippi Regional Housing Authority, if it had tried, couldn’t have trumped a city housing inspector.

The point is that towns are ultimately responsible for local working and housing conditions. Clearly it’s a muscle City Hall could flex more often.