City studying proposals to demolish Kuhn

Published 5:47 pm Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are ready to take another step toward demolishing and clearing the Kuhn Hospital property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but funding may delay completing the job.

The board Thursday opened seven bids to remove asbestos and demolish and remove the two buildings on the property with totals ranging from more than $400,000 to more than $1 million. All the bids were taken under advisement.

The city in 2017 received two Brownfields grants totaling $400,000, and the city provided $80,000 in matching funds. The city spent about $20,000 of the money to remove an underground diesel fuel storage tank on the Kuhn property.

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Presently, the city has a total of $460,000 in grant funds to cover the asbestos removal. Community development director Victor Grey-Lewis said the city has the option, if necessary, of seeking up to $500,000 in low interest Brownfields CAP loans from the Mississippi Development Authority to help with the work.

The bids were split into three parts, with a base bid to remove the asbestos, and two alternate bids, one to take down the building facing Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the other to raze the building on the south end of the property.

Submitting bids were:

• Riverside Construction of Vicksburg, base bid $522,275.08; alternative 1: $191,072.94; alternative 2: $283,448.47 — a total of $996,796.49.

• Jeff Evans, dba Eagle Construction, Brandon: base bid: $449,042. The company did not bid on razing the two buildings.

• Paul Lynn Construction LLC, Vicksburg: base bid: $398,750; alternative 1: $176,510; alternative 2: $223,240 — a total of $798,500.

• Gulf Service Construction Inc., Mobile, Alabama: base bid: $575,526; alternative 1: $179,063; alternative 2: $277,607 — a total of $1.03 million.

• M&M Services Inc., Jackson: base bid: $550,000, alternative 1: $49,990; alternative 2: $150,000 — for a total of $749,990.

• ARC Abatement Limited/Abatement 1 Limited, Tickfaw, Louisiana: base bid, $425,772; alternative 1: $129,320; alternative 2: $216,000 ‚ a total of $771,092

• Rose L. Bingham & Anderson environmental: base bid: $325,000; alternative 1: $410,000 — a total of $735,000. No bid was submitted for the building on the south side of the property.

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 had been sold six times for taxes, and city officials tried 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.

The city officially took title to the Kuhn property Nov.1 after reaching agreements with the four parties that had interests in the property.

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.

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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