Wesson officials address property cleanup concerns

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2002

WESSON — Little progress was made in the town board’s effortsto have two properties in downtown brought to an acceptablestandard.

After repeated requests from town officials, John Hamilton stilldid not show up Wednesday for the monthly board meeting to discussthe possibilities of improving his property on Highway 51.

However, Bobby Lumley, who owns the adjacent property inquestion, was present with his attorney, Nathaniel Armstead.

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Lumley told board members he had been busy and had not developeda plan for the property, which he has owned for at least threeyears.

“I’m in the process now of selling a franchise. It takes up alot of my time,” said Lumley, who works as a contractor forinsurance agencies.

The transaction has had him on 24-hour call for the past threemonths, Lumley said, adding that once the deal was complete hewould have more time to spend on developing a plan for thebuilding.

After a lengthy discussion, board members told Lumley theywanted him to present a plan of action at the next board meetingbecause time was valuable in repairing the area.

“Everything’s deteriorating. There’s nothing to protect it andthat’s our main problem,” Ward One Alderman Robert Derrick toldLumley and Armstead.

The building, which connects with other buildings on two sides,does not have a roof and lacks adequate flooring.

Bricks on the building are deteriorating and civil engineer JeffKnight deemed the structure “unsafe” in a letter to the board.

The Mississippi State Department of Health found the building ahealth hazard, suggesting it be condemned, after a recentinspection.

The “lack of enclosure” creates an ideal condition for thebreeding of mosquitoes, pests and rodents, the letter furtherstated.

“After heavy rains, I see water standing there and staying for along time. I don’t see any drainage,” Mayor Bill Tigner added,pointing out how stagnant water attracts mosquitoes.

Armstead told board members the building had been cleaned up,and now met state requirements.

Tigner said it would only remain clean for so long, and theproblems would occur again if the building was not improved orleveled.

He also told Lumley that other problems were associated with therun down building.

“It’s very difficult for a community like Wesson to attractother businesses anyway, but when the center of your town has abuilding with a safety issue, it makes it even harder,” Tignersaid.

Lumley said he would “probably” have a plan at the next meeting,then left with his lawyer.

After Lumley departed from town hall, board members continueddiscussion on the matter, saying they did not feel theyaccomplished anything.

Some said they realized Lumley had been busy during the last 90days, but maybe now he would fix up the property.

Ward Four Alderman Hollis Cowen Jr. pointed out that Lumley hasmade a few minimal efforts since the town first started sending himletters requesting an improvement in the property in 1999.

Tigner said he did not plan to let the problem continue for thatlong. He believed Lumley was sincere in his efforts and would havethe building in acceptable condition within the next severalmonths.

If the building does not meet the board’s requirements within adesignated time frame, the board could opt to have it torndown.

Board Attorney Kevin Camp plans to send a final letter toHamilton, informing him of the board’s decision to take legalactions soon.

Hamilton was sent several certified letters concerning theproperty cleanup, and did not respond to any of the letters, Campstated.

The business bordering Lumley’s building was also a topic ofdiscussion at the meeting, when Tigner said Jeff Fortenberry, ownerof the Original Wesson Cafe, asked for a zoning variance.

“He is seriously considering moving Wesson Cafe from itslocation on Highway 51 to his home on Oak Street,” Tigner said.

A public hearing to give Fortenberry a variance in theresidential area will be held during the next meeting, which isscheduled for 7 p.m., Feb. 5.

In open discussion, Tigner informed board members and townresidents of the progress made in the renovation of the Old WessonSchool.

Architects have been hired and contracts are being prepared forthe first phase of the project.

The phase will include a new roof, restoring the towers, puttingstairs back in the towers, porch repair and restoring windows anddoors.

“I was thrilled to see with that first grant money… thatbuilding will be protected for years,” Tigner commented.

Tigner asked that the public help with the restoration byproviding pictures of the Old Wesson School.

“We want to look at them because we want to restore it as closeas possible,” he said. “We especially need pictures of the backbecause we don’t know what the old canopy looked like.”

Pictures can be dropped off at town hall for Tigner, who willreview them with architects.