NO TRESPASSING: City to fence Kuhn property

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

The abandoned Kuhn Hospital sits off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Vicksburg. -- Justin Sellers | The Vicksburg Post

The abandoned Kuhn Hospital sits off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Vicksburg. — Justin Sellers | The Vicksburg Post

The board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Friday to make access to the overgrown, abandoned Kuhn Memorial Hospital more difficult.

The board unanimously approved blocking entrances and putting a fence around the former hospital site at 1422 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. as they continue attempts to demolish the building under the city’s slum clearance ordinance, which allows the city to take over a building, renovate or demolish it, and sell the property to recover any costs.

Grass is overgrown, a portion of the building is caving in and it was the site of a recent homicide.

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“We’re restricting all access to the property until we can demolish the property. It has been come a crime scene, and it’s also an eyesore. We thought we would restrict it so it would not become another crime scene,” Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the move came aver city officials were unable to contact the owner of the blighted property that was the scene of a homicide in late June.

“We have not been able to get in touch with anyone who owns the property or reportedly owns the property,” Thomas said.

County tax records and deeds on file with the Warren County Chancery Clerk’s office provide no clear ownership of the property.

Thomas said the city would also block the easement that leads to a city-owned water tower on the property until clearing the site is finished.

Flaggs asked Vicksburg Police Department to issue trespassing citations to anyone caught on the property. A no trespassing sign is nailed to a tree at an entrance to the former hospital.

“Anybody without authorization on that property will be prosecuted,” Flaggs said.

Removing or cleaning the abandoned hospital has long been on the city’s radar but a renewed push began following the death of 69-year-old Sharen Wilson, whose body was found by ghost hunters on the property June 28.

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong said it was unclear if the ghost hunters were trespassing on the property when they found Wilson’s body.

Under state law, the city must hold a hearing with the property owner and all people or companies with an interest in the property, in which a plan must be presented to renovate the building or tear it down. If no one attends the hearing or there is no plan, city officials can move to condemn the property and advertise for bids to raze it.

City officials and investors involved with the building are set to meet Aug. 24.

A former city hospital, the city sold Kuhn to the State of Mississippi in 1956 for $5. The state operated the facility as a charity hospital, initially known as the Vicksburg Charity Hospital, until 1989, when Gov. Ray Mabus closed the state’s charity hospital.

The city regained the property in 1990 under an agreement with the state to turn it over to a private corporation but several plans for the complex fell through.