Discussion on Kuhn Hospital property moved to September

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, August 4, 2015



A decision to demolish the old Kuhn Memorial Hospital Building on Martin Luther King Boulevard could come in early September.

Monday, Community Development Director Victor Grey-Lewis told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen the four parties with an interest in the property will have 30 days to respond with a plan to either renovate or demolish the building. The 30-day period is required under the due process clause of the city’s slum clearance ordinance.

None of the four attended a July 24 meeting at the community development office to discuss Kuhn. He said he would have an update for the board at its Aug. 10 meeting.

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“If we have not received anything by Sept. 4, then I will present the response to the board at the next meeting, and they will make a decision whether to take it down,” he said after the meeting.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said he’s ready to not only remove the large hospital building, but the smaller buildings behind it.

“We need to find out how much it would cost to take all that property down,” he said. “Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing the entire structure, and as far as I am concerned, you can push every bit of it off the hill. It wouldn’t bother me a bit, because it’s an eyesore, it’s been an eyesore for years, nobody has stepped up to the plate, and every time you turn around, someone throws a wrench in.”

The problem with taking down the smaller buildings, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, is asbestos. Mayfield acknowledged clearing the asbestos “won’t be cheap.”

“That’s why in this initial action Victor had not dealt with the back buildings,” City Attorney Nancy Thomas said. “The only reason we’ve been able to deal with the front building, from my understanding, is the front roof is falling in and DEQ (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality) is not making us go through the abatement process, so it’s going to be a lot less expensive.”

The back buildings, she said, are not in the same condition of disrepair, and the city would have to go through asbestos abatement before razing them.

Mayfield said he still wanted an estimate for taking down both buildings.

“I just don’t see anybody going in there and turning it into some sort of assisted living or something like that. That’s what I was told years ago, they were going to make it into an assisted living (facility),” he said.

In another property matter, problems locating heirs willing to accept responsibility for the 110-year-old Tate Cemetery property are forcing the city to find another way to cut and clear the property. The cemetery is on South Frontage Road at the intersection of Cypress Centre Boulevard.

The normal process for city officials is to work under a provision of the city code and state law that allows the city to cut and clear properties that are determined a nuisance at the property owner’s expense if the owner refuses to clear the land.

HEADING FOR WRECKING BALL: Kuhn Memorial Hospital will be recommended for demolition by the City of Vicksburg’s Community Development Director, Victor Gray-Lewis, at the next board meeting Aug. 3.

FALLING DOWN: The Kuhn Memorial Hospital property has a building with a collapsing roof and another with asbestos throughout.





The law, however, requires the city to notify property owners by certified letter and give them time to clear the site, but in the case of Tate Cemetery, Thomas said, locating an owner to send a notification is a problem.

“It is listed on the tax rolls as a cemetery, so there are no taxes, and we have no address to send the notice to,” she said. She added the only alternatives for the board would be to use the slum clearance ordinance or acquire it by eminent domain. Acquiring the cemetery by eminent domain, Thomas said, means the city would own the cemetery.

“There has got to be a way we can get in there and cut it once,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, adding some of the heirs he talked with said they cannot afford to keep the cemetery up. He directed Thomas to seek an opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General’s office.

Mayfield cautioned Flaggs about cutting the property. “If you do it once, you’ll have to continue doing it.”

He suggested a meeting with the known heirs living in the city and the county to discuss the cemetery to see if some of the heirs could help keep the cemetery clean and clear of grass and weeds.

“You need to be careful about setting a precedent,” he warned Flaggs. “Once you do this, you could open the door for other people to want the city to do the same thing.”

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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