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EPA awards city grant to assess Mercy Hospital, other property

The old Mercy Hospital will be one of the properties assessed by the city under a $300,000 Brownfields grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant was announced Thursday by EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker during an afternoon press conference. Funded by the EPA, Brownfields grants provide money to help local governments assess, clean and renovate former hazardous material sites. The city of Canton also received a $300,000 grant.

Walker said these grants will provide both cities with resources to clean up contaminated lands and return them to productive use.

“Overall, Brownfields funding provides communities with an opportunity to convert contaminated sites into community assets that will attract jobs, encourage partnerships and achieve broader economic development outcomes,” she said.

“This money couldn’t have come at a better time,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “On behalf of the city of Vicksburg, we are excited to continue our partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency with the latest Brownfields assessment grant.”

In recent years, the city used two Brownfields grants to assess and then clean the site of the former Kuhn Memorial Hospital site, which is awaiting development plans as a Civil Rights Parks.

Flaggs said several organizations have talked to the city about using the Mercy Hospital building for a number of projects. The reason the hospital is listed as a former hazardous material site is the existence of asbestos in the facility.

“If we can test it for asbestos and come up with a proposal, that would be a great asset to the city to have an assisted living or long-term care facility in Vicksburg in that facility,” Flaggs said.

In addition to the Mercy Hospital property, Flaggs said the grant will be used to assess property around the Klondyke Gas Station, assessing any hazardous material issues related to petroleum products. The area may have a future as walking trails.

“We believe if we take that along the Mississippi River, it will help us in our walking trail and this will create economic development opportunities along the Mississippi River,” Flaggs said.

Other properties that will be assessed include the former historic YMCA building downtown, a former cleaning facility on Washington Street and the former Vicksburg Body Shop.

The seven-story old Mercy/ParkView Regional Medical Center building, on the corner of McAuley Drive and Grove Street, was built in 1957 and has been vacant since February 2002, when Merit Health River Region opened.

In August 2001, hospital officials said they were seeking a buyer for the hospital and were also discussing its possible donation to Alcorn State University, but talks with Alcorn failed.

At one time, the 330,000-square-foot building located on 16.27 acres off McAuley Drive was listed on the real estate website LoopNet.com with a $2.1 million price.

Discussing the building in April 2019, Flaggs said it could be used as a residential care home.

“There’s a number of things that could happen, and I want to help them (the owners) if that’s what they want to do,” Flaggs said at the time.

In 2011, Mountain of Faith Ministries promoted a plan to convert the nuns’ convent on the property into a homeless shelter, but the plan was later dropped after serious opposition by residents in neighboring Wildwood Subdivision.

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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