County given stay on dilapidated buildings

Published 10:57 am Friday, August 8, 2014

Warren County supervisors have an additional 60 days to decide the fate of two dilapidated county-owned buildings on Adams Street across from the Warren County Court House, but taking them down is out of the question as far as Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is concerned.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the stay Thursday after Board of Supervisors President Bill Lauderdale asked for more time to let the supervisors examine their options.

Lauderdale said in July the county wants to raze the buildings at 1019 Adams St. and 1015 Adams, adding that was still one of the county’s options. Both buildings are in the city’s historic district. They are due east and behind the Warren County Courthouse.

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“I told them emphatically that I personally had disagreements about demolishing any of those structures because we have to maintain the integrity, as best we can, of the historic district and these historic properties,” Flaggs said after the meeting.

He said city officials in the past have stopped residents from razing buildings in the historic district.

“I just can’t see treating government entities any different than we do Joe Citizen from keeping up their property,” he said. “We have these ordinances we have to try to enforce, and the Board of Architectural Review made the decision (denying the buildings’ demolition) and we have to work with them.

“If they get the blessings to demolish the buildings, they’re going to have to go through a court of law.”

Lauderdale said Thursday the supervisors were working with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to see what can be done with the buildings, and Board Attorney Marcie Southerland was researching the state code to see if any statutes may apply to the county’s situation.

Flaggs said he is willing to help the supervisors find grants or other funding to renovate the homes, adding, “I’ll do anything to accommodate them.”

“Those buildings are not valuable to us, but the land they sit on is valuable to us,” Lauderdale said. “We’re not in the real estate business. We bought that one building (1015 Adams) to tear it down. We bought the other building to tear it down for a justice court building.”

“I can’t in good conscience be in favor of demolishing those buildings,” Flaggs said. “That’s the heart of the city”

Built in the 1870s as a house, the brick, yellow-trimmed former courthouse at 1019 Adams St. was once a law office of John Prewitt before he became a circuit judge. The county bought the building in 1984 to be home to its three justice court districts. The judges were moved to 921 Farmer St. in 2002, and the building essentially became a storage bin. The house at 1015 Adams was built in the 1890s and was home to Verhine & Verhine law firm from 1991 to 2012, according to city directories.

When the Board of Architectural Review denied the county’s request to raze the buildings at its April meeting, several board members severely criticized Lauderdale and Chuck Thornton, county buildings and grounds superintendent, for failing to maintain the buildings.

It was not the first time the county came before the Board of Architectural Review to get the OK to raze the buildings. The board in 2004 and 2005 issued three 180-day stays of demolition as it waited for a plan of action by the county to renovate, sell, lease or raze the buildings.

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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