Kuhn Memorial Hospital’s execution does not deserve a stay

Published 9:39 pm Saturday, September 19, 2015

Kuhn Memorial Hospital can’t wait.

With the failure of the four parties with an interest in the property to take action and either raze or remodel the property on their own, the way is clear for the city to take the buildings down and do, as North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield has said, “leave nothing but a slab.”

But there is a snag on the city’s end — money.

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Apparently, the cost of removing the campus’ main building, which is beginning to fall in, is put at $250,000. The cost of taking out the building behind it is expected to be more because it contains asbestos and must go through an expensive abatement process before it can be removed. The main building also has asbestos, but the city received a waiver from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality because of its condition.

An estimate received by the city to remove the asbestos from both buildings, raze them and have a certified contractor take the debris to a certified landfill is put at $587,850.

Presently, Kuhn’s future is on hold while the city awaits word if it will receive a $7.3 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development National Disaster Resilience grant that would provide enough money to raze and clear the buildings and develop the 12.5-acre Kuhn property into a 35 to 40-unit low-income housing development.

The grant awards will be announced in January. And that is too long to wait for something that is not guaranteed.

So how should the city proceed?

Take the buildings down. Instead of waiting, use money that is available now.

The city’s fiscal 2016 budget has three sources of one-time money it could draw from. One of those, however, is the $9.025 million bond capital improvements bond issue, which will fund needed improvements like streets and municipal building and recreation renovations, and the city has already advertised for bonds on some of the projects.

The other two, however, are another matter, especially the money from the $1.9 million 2014 surplus. With the exception of grant matches for projects that are already under way, like the Halls Ferry tennis courts and the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot on Levee Street, other funds in that $1.58 million total could be shifted to cover the demolition of the hospital building and clearing the property.

If the grant comes in, there may be a way use some of those funds to replace the money used in the demolition. If the city fails to get the grant, it can, under the city’s slum clearance ordinance, sell the property to recover all or some of the money it spent on removal.

The Kuhn hospital has sat vacant since 1989, and for the better part of the 26 years its been vacant, it’s been a hazard. It has been the scene of a murder and a threat to the safety of the neighborhood that surrounds it with its tall weeds and grass and derelict buildings.

Aldermen have been calling it an “eyesore,” and have said they will be happy to see it gone.

Gentlemen, the time is right and the money is there. All it takes is the desire to make the decision and bite the bullet.