Apartment building to be torn down

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 45-year-old Oak Street Apartments at 2427 Oak St. will be coming down.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday directed Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis to move ahead with testing the building for asbestos and razing it. No date was set for the demolition.

Gray-Lewis estimated the cost of taking the structure down at $18,500. “That does not include asbestos. If the tests find asbestos, that could increase the cost by $5,000 to $10,000, because we would have to have it removed before we could start demolition” he said.

Built in 1969, the two-story building was condemned Oct. 14 after city utility department employees pulled the complex’s water and gas meters because owner Alan Osborne had not paid the utility bills.

The apartments were placed under the city’s slum clearance ordinance after neither Osborne nor a representative for him appeared at a Dec. 12 hearing to discuss the buildings and plans to repair them. The building was then placed on the city’s list for demolition.

“It’s empty, the building’s in deplorable condition, it should be removed,” Gray-Lewis said.

“Before I wanted to spend any city money and commit ourselves, I wanted to bring before you what kind of costs we could be looking at,” he said, adding, “just to do the asbestos testing, our lowest quote was $3,500, (and) demolition and disposal about $15,000.”

“Is there anybody we can go after?” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield asked.

Gray-Lewis said Obsorne “walked away from it. He has not made payments on the property.”

Attempts to contact Osborne were unsuccessful. County tax records list a post office box for an address, and his telephone number is not listed.

Gray-Lewis said the city has two ways to try and recover the cost of demolition, by either placing a lien on the property or moving under the slum ordinance. Gray-Lewis said a lien on the property would total $23,186, which includes a 25 percent penalty and fees.

“Slum clearance allows us an opportunity, once the work is done, to sell the property and recover whatever we can,” he said. “We may not be able to recover everything, but we can recover a portion with the sale of the property.

According to county tax records, he said, the property is valued at $17,980 without the building, “but I don’t think we’ll be able to get that much for it.”

“The question is, whether or not we want to spend the money to do what we need to enforce,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “That ain’t no question to me. Spend the money. If we start raising questions whether we can afford to demolish something, we might as well quit.”

“We’re going to have to do something,” Mayfield said, calling the building a fire hazard and a safety hazard. “When I went up in there, I almost gagged, for many different reasons. So unless somebody’s going to come in right now and renovate, they need to come down.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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