Owner of former hospital given deadline

VICKSBURG — The city of Vicksburg has given the owner of a 54-year-old building that once housed the Kuhn Memorial Hospital, once one of Mississippi’s three charity hospitals, 120 days to decide its fate.

The Vicksburg Post reports that the order was issued this week by city building and inspection director Victor Gray-Lewis.

The order came after a Sept. 18 hearing held on the property. No one from Ester Stewart Buford Foundation of Yazoo City, which owns the property, or Long Land Investments of Lauderdale County or Adair Asset Management LLC/U.S. Bank showed up, Gray-Lewis said. The hearing was not open to the public.

Long Land acquired the property at the 2011 county tax sale. Adair got it at the 2012 tax sale. Neither has redeemed the property.

“Someone’s going to have to fix it or take it down,” Gray-Lewis said. “They can’t leave it as it is.”

If no action is taken after 120 days, he said, he will take the matter to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for a recommendation.

If the property owners do not take action, Gray-Lewis said, the city can decide to demolish the building, which he said is expensive. Under the state’s slum clearance law, the city can sell the cleared property to recover the cost of demolition.

“I hope it won’t come to that,” he said.

The hospital was closed in 1989 along with two other charity hospitals in Meridian and Laurel.

The hospital was built in 1959 on 12.8 acres. The building was given to the city in 1990. While the city owned it, a Louisiana company proposed renovating the building as a 118-bed adolescent psychiatric facility, but the plan fell through.

In 1996, the city sold the property to Frank Lassiter of Lassiter Associates in Baton Rouge, La. Lassiter proposed using the building as an assisted living facility and clinic. The project, he said, would employ 100 to 150 people.

The property was sold in 2000 to Bob Pitts, who donated it to the Esther Stewart Buford Foundation the next year.

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