Whispering Woods Apartments faces 4th condemnation notice

Published 9:52 am Friday, October 28, 2016


The Whispering Woods Apartments complex, 780 U.S. 61 North, has been condemned by city officials after water to the complex was shut off for non-payment of the water bill, Community Development Director Victor Grey-Lewis said.

“We posted the condemnation notice last week,” he said. “We discovered three weeks ago the water bill had not been paid. The city turned the water off and someone, we don’t know who, turned it back on. The city went out and locked it off.

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“This is our fourth condemnation notice. Condemnation number 1 is still standing, condemnation number 2 has been released, and condemnation number 3 is still standing. Number 4 is for the remainder of the complex. “

Under the condemnation order, he said, residents in the complex have 30 days to leave it. The order also gives the property owner the opportunity to fix the problems causing the condemnation.

“All he has to do is pay the water bill,” Grey-Lewis said. “Some of the units are livable, but as long as there’s no water, they’re not livable. The owner needs to take care of his business. We are reacting to the situation that’s currently existing.”

Lisa Hunt, Whispering Woods manager, referred all questions about the complex’s situation to Eddie Grosse, Whispering Woods LLC managing partner. Repeated attempts to contact Grosse were unsuccessful.

When Whispering Woods Holdings LLC, a Delaware-based holding company with offices in Florida, acquired the property then known as Confederate Ridge in February 2013, company officials made plans to improve the complex and change its image from an area where crime and drug sales were common occurrences.

Police calls dropped, and Grosse said in a March 2014 interview the company evicted 70 tenants soon after taking over the property. Two buildings condemned by the city for electric code violations were repaired and the condemnation order on them removed.

Grosse added the company was going to repair the complex’s two swimming pools, club and fitness center and laundry center, and the buildings would be renovated.

Almost two years later, in January, the city condemned 37 units at the complex after building inspections revealed a series of serious city and state building code violations and unsafe conditions for residents, and residents complained about poor maintenance and mold in the apartments.

Another set of units were later condemned after a sewer line collapsed on the back side of the property.

In February, an eight-unit apartment building was destroyed by fire. The complex’s 4-inch PVC waterlines prevented firefighter from quickly getting water on the blaze, Fire Chief Charles Atkins said after the fire, adding the minimum standard size line for fire protection in an apartment complex is 6 inches.

The building was neither rebuilt nor demolished after the fire. The burnt remains are still standing. The charred structure is not the only damaged building. A trip through Whispering Woods reveals vacant apartments, many with broken windows and missing roof shingles. Vacant apartments in the rear of the property are littered with rubbish and trash, and the walls have been torn down revealing the frame.

The kitchen areas are also in disrepair with items missing.

In one spot on the edge of a wooded area across from an apartment building, is a large pile of garbage.

There are, however, signs repairs are underway, indicated by stacks of PVC sewer line sitting near a set of buildings.

“We’re trying to fix it up and bring it back,” said Kris McKay, a maintenance worker for the complex. “We’re working on the sewer line and we’re trying to make repairs, get the pools back up and get the buildings in shape so we can attract tenants.”

McKay said he has been working for three months without pay, adding he was making it “by the skin of my teeth. He is living with another worker in what was once the weight room of one of the pool houses.

I used to live here in 1992,” he said. “At that time, this was the apartment complex other complexes in town measured themselves against. It had two pools, tournaments were played on the tennis courts. It was the place to be. We want to try and bring that back.”

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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