City wants money from Arlington fines

Published 12:06 am Saturday, April 14, 2012

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is taking the long-fought battle to preserve historic Arlington back to court.

At the request of Natchez City Planner Bob Nix, the Natchez Board of Aldermen unanimously voted Tuesday to instruct an attorney to seek in court the $43,000 in fines from Arlington’s owner through court action. The city also wants a court to order the owner to repair the national landmark.

Arlington’s owner, Dr. Thomas Vaughan of Jackson, was found guilty of demolition by neglect in Municipal Judge Jim Blough’s court in December 2009. Since Blough’s ruling, Nix said, the $100 per day fine allowed by state law has accumulated to approximately $43,000.

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Nix said the city may seek the fines in civil court or a higher court. He said attorney Lisa Jordan Dale will be handling the case for the city and will decide the appropriate course of action.

In addition to pursuing the fines, Nix said the city will seek separate action under the city’s unsafe structure code to ask a judge to order Vaughan to first secure Arlington’s building then repair it.

If Vaughan refuses to secure and repair Arlington, Nix said the city will then have the right to repair the building and charge the costs to Vaughan.

Nix said the city’s overall and most important goal is Arlington’s restoration.

“I don’t know if we care so much about collecting the (fines) as long as we can get Arlington repaired,” he said.

The house suffered severe fire damage in September 2002, which destroyed the roof and the second floor. A roof was installed on the house shortly after the fire, but no other work has been done to protect the house from weather or vandalism.

The house was named the second most endangered historic property in Mississippi by the Mississippi Heritage Trust in 2009. The Mississippi Heritage Trust has released a 10 most endangered places list since 1999. Once properties are placed on the list, many are given priority for grant funding and other assistance.