Board moving faster on Kuhn, but other problems remain

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Considering the length of time city officials have been dealing with Kuhn Memorial Hospital, the actions of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen over April and May to acquire the 12.8-acre property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard could be considered putting the property on fast track toward a resolution.

In April, the board approved an ambitious urban renewal plan for the property that included a multipurpose residential/commercial development with recreation facilities. Monday, the board hired Bottin Consulting to appraise the property’s value for either a move to take the property by eminent domain or to make an offer to the four groups holding an interest in the property.

But despite the board’s best efforts and intentions, don’t look for Kuhn to come down tomorrow or next week.

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The city still has to acquire the property and pay for it. It still has to raze the buildings and clear the property. And finding the $850,000 to remove the asbestos and take the buildings could be a major stumbling block when the time comes to take them down. There is also the matter of finding a developer or non-profit agency to take over the property and follow the city’s urban renewal plan that calls for affordable single family homes for sale and housing for senior citizens, especially in what some consider a still questionable economic climate.

The city needs to be commended for finally picking up the gauntlet and moving ahead faster on Kuhn than it has in the past. It’s a shame it took a tragedy in which someone lost their life to start the wheels moving at a faster pace.

But Kuhn isn’t the only derelict property in the city, and the board needs to start moving to remedy those problems with the same dispatch it is now finally addressing Kuhn, which is not the only vacant hospital in town — the old Mercy Hospital on Grove Street, a multi-story building later known as ParkView Regional Medical Center that closed in 2002, remains the topic of complains from the residents around it.

Besides the old hospital, there are an untold number of vacant homes surrounded by overgrown yards and other dilapidated houses scattered across the city. All of these buildings need to be addressed, and as soon as possible.

We realize the city doesn’t have the money or the staff to address these problem buildings at one time, but they should begin developing a plan to deal with them before we have another serious tragedy to inspire action. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. says he wants a 10-year plan for the city. Derelict homes should be a part of that plan.