Demolition of old Howard Johnson's hotel in St. Martin may still take time

Demolition of old Howard Johnson's hotel in St. Martin may still take time

ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - The old Howard Johnson's hotel on Washington Avenue in St. Martin has been standing unattended for nearly three years after a fire made it uninhabitable.

Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross is frustrated. He's been dealing with this hotel for years now since the hotel caught fire in October 2012. He wants to take it to the ground. But the hang up has been with a lengthy arson investigation and a lawsuit over insurance.

"I think we need to make sure we emphasize that the second those parties involved tell us that we are able to tear this building down with no legal action on their part, Jackson County is ready and willing and more than happy to come tear this building down," he said.

Ross said that the county can't do anything, including putting up a fence, without potentially damaging evidence for lawsuits. It will be costly to take down, but it's worth it.

"This is one of things that once somebody gets hurt in this hotel or this swimming pool, it's too late to ask questions about how much it was going to cost."

The property is wide open, the windows and doors are unlocked, and there is evidence that the property is a magnet for vagrants. It's been a problem for business owner Leo Taranto, who is right across the street.

"I have a car lot here, they may come take stuff out of the cars to sell it to feed their habit or whatever it may be," he said. "So it doesn't bode well for this business."

An apartment complex is right next to the property. Brian Leger has been living there for two years.

"Like almost every night people come and you can see flashlights in the middle of the night, cops are constantly over here," he said.

Added Ross: "Exit 50 is a main artery for guests coming into Jackson County and Harrison County and the Gulf Coast. And we don't want this to be our welcome sign."

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