Reprinted From Tishomingo County News/The Vidette
Some weeks there’s more news than we can handle. We regret that a front page story was not continued on page 2 as was intended. Here is the entire text:
Appeals Panel Agrees: Hotel Not Fit For Human Occupation
by Pamela McRae
The appeals board appointed by the City agreed with the decision of the building inspector that the Battlefield Inn is in no condition for human occupation and called for all the remaining residents, including the manager, to not reside in the location during any proposed renovation.
Tuesday night at Iuka City Hall, a three-member appeals board made up of building industry professionals heard testimony from Jackie Bunns, manager of the Battlefield Inn, city attorney Nathaniel Clark, Iuka’s building inspector Paul Harper, and Fire Chief Brian Grissom. The appeals board that heard the case included general contractors Kevin Senter, Pete Trickey and Charles Stafford, and alternates James Crowell and Derrick Tapp. At Bunn’s request, Senter was replaced by James Crowell, since Senter is related by marriage to city alderman Joel Robertson.
With a search warrant, the city inspected the former Battlefield Inn on October 3rd, and later issued an order to vacate after finding deplorable conditions in the 57-room facility that is still licensed as a hotel.
After Tuesday night’s meeting, the city will be issuing a notice to any remaining residents that they must leave the property until it is brought up to code by an approved licensed commercial building contractor.
Bunn’s argument for the October 6th order to vacate to be overturned is that city officials allowed residents to stay another week after deeming part of the structure an “imminent danger” to any persons. She also said that the “clutter” in residents’ rooms was a result of people going through their things to sell them in a yard sale that was going on that weekend of the Friday October 3rd inspection. She said that accumulated garbage at the location was just because some residents just refused her requests to dispose of it correctly, and that missing fire protection equipment was because residents stole the equipment and she did not replace it.
Bunns said that she has had building contractors out to the location in an attempt to plan renovations, and that they said that black moldy areas are not actually mold. Apparently there have been no official tests.
In actuality, city officials explained, only two rooms were taped off as an “imminent danger” under the international building code that the city uses as a standard. The rest of the building was condemned under a different section of the code, Clark explained, that just says that the condition of the building – the filth, the mold, the accumulated garbage and inoperable plumbing-all contribute to not being a fit place for people to reside.
Building owner Mulak Ahuja, of Greenwood, visited the Battlefield Inn location last week and said he was surprised to see the deteriorated condition of the structure and to hear all the media reports. He said he understood that it had been operating as a hotel, and that running it as a shelter would require zoning changes and would not be possible.
“This is not designed to be run as a shelter, and will be run as a hotel as agreed,” he said in a phone interview. In response to news that Bunns is collecting donations from concerned people and churches to renovate the location as a shelter for her newly incorporated “Hope of Mississippi” charity, Ahuja said that it would not be a homeless shelter and that he hopes that people will not be donating to any cause that would suggest that it would be a homeless shelter.