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Court deadline looms for Williams

THE OWNER OF THIS DILAPIDATED STRUCTURE at 1100 M.L. King Jr. Ave. S.W. has plans to develop a museum and banquet hall at this site. City officials project the reconstruction cost of the project to be upwards of $300,000.

The owner of a decades old blighted property in southwest Cairo has until next Friday to resubmit engineering plans for a proposed restoration project at 1100 M.L. King Jr. Ave. S.W. or violate a court order issued by Cairo Municipal Court Judge Joshua C. Bell.
Chiquita Williams testified in Municipal Court last month about her plans to construct a new banquet hall and museum on her property that has been vacant and dilapidated for over 25 years.
Engineering plans for the project, done by a licensed engineer, were presented to the city on Tuesday, July 26, just one day before Ms. Williams’ court date.
According to Cairo Building Official Brian Hayes, the plans are “structurally” sufficient, but the plans submitted do not indicate the electric load, the maximum occupancy of the proposed banquet hall and other relevant information.
Hayes says based on certain information such as occupancy load, the facility may be required to have fire sprinklers.
The city building official says Ms. William’s proposed construction project would create approximately 6,300 square feet.
Hayes estimates the cost of the project at minimum construction per square foot costs to total in the neighborhood of $300,000.
The city is seeking to have the dilapidated structure at 1100 M.L. King, Jr. Ave. S.W. razed through nuisance abatement action. Last year, the city council declared a war on blight and is tackling a list of the worst cases of blight, which includes the Williams property.
The city has taken two other blight cases to municipal court and has been successful in having both properties razed. The former Chickasaw Club, a long-closed nightclub, is one of the properties the city has had demolished.
Cairo attorney Melvin Horne is representing Ms. Williams, and he told Judge Bell during court on July 27 that his client is requesting the city to approve or disapprove the plans submitted.
Horne says the property owner has already invested approximately $5,000 to clean up the property and about $21,000 for the engineering.
“So, I mean, there’s been a substantial investment of money here. We’re looking for approval by the city as to approval of what we’ve submitted, and then it will be our obligation to obtain a permit for the reconstruction,” Horne told Judge Bell, according to court transcripts.
Judge Bell questioned how the city could approve the plans without all of the necessary information, such as electrical load and occupancy, being included.
When asked by the judge, Hayes indicated his office would need a complete set of plans to issue an approval or denial.
The building official also testified the engineer on the project had told him he did not have sufficient information from Ms. Williams to complete the plans.
Ms. Williams stated that the additional information was available, but that it was received late.
Judge Bell said it appeared to him that only a few “minute details” were left to be worked out, so he granted Ms. Williams an additional 30 days to resubmit the plans so that a building permit may be issued.
Building Official Hayes requested the judge stipulate a time line for construction.
After deliberation, the judge granted Ms. Williams until Sept. 26, 2011, to submit to the city a timeline for construction. Judge Bell put Ms. Williams on notice that, unless advised otherwise, she should be prepared to appear in court on Oct. 12, at which time the court would address any issues with the project the city may have.
If the city has no objections to the plan or the construction timeline, there will be no need for Ms. Williams to appear.
With the deadline for the resubmission of plans approaching, city officials are cautiously optimistic about the project.
“If she completes her plan, it will be an asset to the community. If she fails to do what needs to be done, then it needs to be demolished,” Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said this week.
The city manager added, “We have dealt with similar properties, and continue to believe we have a good, robust case in this matter.”

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