Kuhn is now the city’s

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The City of Vicksburg now officially owns the Kuhn Memorial Hospital property, City Attorney Nancy Thomas told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday.

“All the parties involved have signed over their titles to the property,” she said. Thomas said after the meeting the city took ownership of the property Nov. 1.

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The news came as the board approved a contract with PPM Consultants to help city officials at no charge apply for a Brownfields grant to help pay the estimated $850,000 cost of removing asbestos and razing the buildings on the property, removing an underground diesel storage tank and clearing and cleaning the property. The city had to own the property to be able to apply for the grant.

Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, Brownfields grants provide money to help local governments clean and renovate former hazardous material sites.

“This is starting the second phase as far as the board is concerned,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, who has pushed for Kuhn’s demolition.

“The property is ours, signed, sealed and delivered. Now we’ve got to find out what it will take to take the buildings down. I hope it goes as smooth as our acquiring the buildings, but you never know what stones will be thrown in your path. We still have to deal with DEQ (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality), and there may be some other hurdles. Right now, it’s going great.”

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.

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, 2015.

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.

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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