Demo plans put on hold

Published 12:11 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

NATCHEZ — Plans to demolish the Washington School gymnasium have been put on hold.

Since the collapse of the roof on the gym on June 16, it was discovered the gymnasium is a historic landmark designated by the state.

As such, the board needs the approval of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to demolish it.

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“We’re waiting to hear back from the state and we cannot make another move or release any further information until the state gives us permission,” Steven Richardson, Natchez-Adams School District public relations coordinator, said.

Richardson said the school district had been planning to demolish the building long before the roof collapsed.

“We opened up the bidding process for bids to flow in,” Richardson said. “Then, during that process, Mother Nature struck.”

In the past, the school board checked to see whether the property was a historic landmark. Initially the district thought it wasn’t, but Richardson said they checked again to make sure.

That was when the board discovered the gymnasium was designated as a historic landmark.

Trevor Brown, deputy director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, assisted the board in the next steps.

“They came in inquiring about the landmark status, and I checked it out and sure enough it was,” Brown said. “And I helped them to get the paperwork straight.”

The designation means any renovations or improvements to the property require the MDAH’s approval.

“The demolition falls under their review as well,” Brown said.

In order to proceed, the board had to file a notice of intent with the MDAH for their approval. Brown said the notice was filed about a week ago.

The notice needs to be reviewed by a permit committee before going to the MDAH board of trustees for approval. They will then decide whether to approve the request.

Because the approval process is not in the school board’s hands, Richardson is not sure when the building will be demolished.

“We don’t have a time frame yet because that’s their process,” Richardson said.