Another step closer to acquiring Kuhn Hospital property?
Published 6:52 pm Saturday, October 15, 2016
The city of Vicksburg could be one step closer to fully acquiring the Kuhn Hospital property after Monday.
The Board of Mayor and Alderman is expected Monday to approve a resolution to settle with two of the six organizations having an ownership interest in the property, which has been a eyesore in the city for almost 20 years.
Email newsletter signup
The settlements follow action by the board in August to acquire the property by eminent domain, a legal process that allows a governmental body to take private property and convert it to public use, subject to reasonable compensation to the property owner.
“We felt if we could get through this eminent domain without any opposition, it would be quicker and less costly than having to have an appraiser come testify and have a contested trial. The board agreed to pay them,” City Attorney Nancy Thomas said.
According to a copy of the resolution, the two organizations, Easthaven Ventures and Symbiotic Partners agreed to cash settlements totaling $2,980, with Easthaven getting $1,700, and Symbiotic getting $1,280. The settlement involves money paid at tax sales to get the property.
Thomas said the city presently has verbal agreements from the Esther Stewart Buford Foundation and two other organizations to turn over their titles to the city.
“It (the settlement) can’t come fast enough for me,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, whose ward includes Kuhn. “This is one property that should have been gone may years ago. It has just sat there and it has been an eyesore in that community for many years. We’ve had several different factions that have made promises about that property but have never done anything meaningful.
“I’m 100 percent favorable of taking it down, and not just taking it down, but bringing something to fruition that’s going to be worthy to this city. Hopefully some new houses.”
The decision to acquire the property came after the board in April approved a resolution adopting and authorizing a 33-page urban renewal plan to first demolish the buildings on the property and clear it, then begin the process of finding a developer or nonprofit agency to develop it into a multipurpose residential/commercial development with recreational facilities.
The city is also seeking a Brownfields grant to help pay the estimated $850,000 cost of razing the buildings on the property, removing an underground diesel storage tank and clearing and cleaning the property. The city must own the property to be able to apply for the grant.
A former city hospital, the city sold Kuhn to the State of Mississippi in 1956 for $5, and the state operated the facility as a charity hospital, initially known as the Vicksburg Charity Hospital, until 1989.
The city regained the property in 1990 under an agreement with the state to turn it over to a private corporation.
In 1993, the building was considered as a possible veterans home, and in 1994, it was considered for a possible 38-bed adolescent psychiatric ward.
In 1999, the building was sold to the Lassiter-Studdard Group Inc., which planned to open a 100-bed clinic and assisted living center.
The plans fell through, and in 2000 the company donated the building to the Esther Stewart Buford Foundation.
The property has been sold six times for taxes, and city officials have been trying for at least the past 10 years to get the property owner to clean the property and demolish or renovate the buildings on the site.
The board on July 6 put the 12.8-acre property under the city’s slum clearance ordinance in a move to step up its efforts to remove the complex’s main building.
The city’s efforts to do something with the property accelerated in the aftermath of the abduction and murder of Sharen Wilson, whose body was found on the property June 28.
Police said Wilson was killed in the back building and her body left on the property, where ghost hunters who were on the site found it. When the parties with an interest in the property failed to present plans to either raze or renovate the two buildings on the site in September, it cleared the way to begin the process for their demolition.