Efforts underway to clean up Gautier eyesore

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - There's a building on Highway 90 in Gautier that has seen much better days. Piles of trash, long weeds, and dangerous conditions are the norm.  Bricks are caving in, the gutters are falling down, and many windows are boarded shut.

J.R. Wilson is a businessman who works right across the street.  It's not a very pretty view from his front window, every day of the week.  Wilson said it's a view that would chase people away.

"Well, if I was a visitor driving through driving through town and I saw that, I'd keep going. No stops," Wilson said. "It just doesn't do my city justice."

Speaking if visitors, right next door is a nice motel beckoning guests to stop and stay awhile.  Motel owner Raksha Mehta said despite the nice appearance of her business, the property next door leaves a bad taste.

"That looks awful. Really, really bad," Mehta said.  "The impression is bad on our hotel guests to look on this building. "

Mayor Tommy Fortenberry has been frustrated for years in trying to clean up the mess. Hurricane Katrina just slowed down the process.

"There's a lot of buildings left standing since Hurricane Katrina, but that's five plus years ago," The mayor said.  "It's time to start moving on with these blighted properties."

Despite the fact that the building is an eyesore and looks terrible and creates a bad impression for those driving on Highway 90 in Gautier, there's another concern as well, and that is public safety.  People who are homeless could actually climb into the building, start a fire and end up with human tragedy such as what happened in New Orleans earlier this week, when eight homeless men died in a warehouse fire.

"It's open access, anybody can get in there and probably burn it down, which might be good in the long run, but I'd hate to see people get hurt in the process," Wilson said.

There may be good news though. Mayor Fortenberry said city officials have talked with the owner of the building, an attorney who lives in California.  He plans on starting repairs to the building after the New Year.

If repairs don't start soon, the city could begin proceedings to declare the building a public nuisance and have it torn down.  We will keep you posted.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.