Vicksburg’s Inspection Dept. – a bit too stringent?

The number of contractors, remodelers, and ordinary people who have had difficulty complying with Vicksburg’s building codes must number into the hundreds – perhaps the thousands. The mere need to have gas, water, or electricity turned on can be an expensive and nerve-wracking experience. The Inspection Dept., charged with enforcing the codes, has been the subject of some vehement criticism. Are they just doing their jobs? Should the codes be modified? Or is the Inspection Dept. just being overly zealous in enforcing codes that can greatly increase the costs of construction, remodeling, or simple repairs?

Published in: on July 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm  Comments (7)  

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  1. We have a very good inspection department. With a home and two businesses within the city limits I much prefer the inspection department to be tough like they are as opposed to easy going – or worse easily influenced.

    We interact with the inspection department annually. They have not cut a single break on the code, but have been fair in implementing a timetable for repair or correction.

    Additionally the number of fires in the city has decreased in direct relation to the improvements in code enforcement. Don’t we all wish there were a stronger code in place that would have prevented the collapse on Clay?

  2. Amen, David! But the city inspectors were in the collpased buildings a week or less before the collapse, and they failed to note any violations (of which I am aware). Either they goofed, or the building code didn’t address the misadventures that contributed to the catastrophe.

    In reference to the number of fires in town, I didn’t know the number had come down. We’ve had a bunch of house fires this year… Are you sure???

  3. I am wondering why the insepction dept has not done something to enforce the codes around Speed and Oak Street.
    The area I am speaking of has 5 beautiful historic homes in a one block radius surrounded by sub standard housing.

  4. I can’t find the exact numbers on reported fires now vs. 8 years ago. I base my statement on the comments of firefighters. They say they used to spend their entire shift on calls putting out brush and ‘shack’ fires. Now that codes are being enforced they sometimes go entire shifts without a call.

    Also I think the issue with the fallen building was, in all fairness, not an inspection department issue but a skill issue with the contractor. My information is the contractor was cleaning bricks in the basement with a high pressure washer and blew out the mortar between the bricks. A contractor adept at buildings of that age would have known the mortar was of a different composition than todays buildings and subject to easy degradation by water.

    I don’t know how the inspection department would have blame in that arena.


    My name is Preston Reuther and I am the owner of the clay st complex and I can tell you very little of the truth has been told on the collapse and less has been printed by the Vicksburg Post.

    Lets start at the beginning shall we?

    Today my wife and I are fighting Mayor Leyans and the city administration for our financial life and it has little to do with the collapse of the building. Lets face it 150 year old buildings fall down all the time in Vicksburg and other old cities. But the real reason is a big fat insurance policy and that I spoke up at a city hearing in which i criticized the mayor and his group of henchmen and political cronies. I guess it was a clear case of standing up when I should have shut up!

    The mayor, who’s ego is bigger then my building, was furious and I knew right then and there it was going to be a battle. My wife and I were outsiders from New Orleans (pre Katrina) and did very little socializing in Vicksburg and had few friends in high places and in Vicksgurg I soon learned that if you dont have a few well placed friends you won’t be doing much business in Vicksburg.

    We have an internet business so few in Vicksburg politics if any knew what we did or how we made our money so i guess that fueled some interest and a bit of contempt toward us. We did not go to school with anyone, didnt contribute to any elections we just took care of our family and worked very hard each day like everyone else does.

    But my wife and I both truly loved Vicksburg, the old homes, the people, the river and I could go on and on but as a part time real estate developer I could see lots of potential in downtown Vicksburg. Not huge money but a little business or two where people could meet and have some fun.I had no idea what awaited us.

    Today king Lawrence and his followers are claiming the clay st complex to be the shining star of Vicksburg despite the best appraisals to get it repaired for $4,000,000 and really closer to $6,000,000 But for 10 long years the building lay vacant the windows shattered everwhere with over 12 inches of pigeon droppings on the top floors causing several floor beams and floors to rot out, rain coming in from all directions, roof leaking to where both elevators filled up with water at least once maybe twice when pipes broke and flooded the entire building and filling up both elevator shafts completely ruining one of the elevators.

    Im no appraiser or structural engineer but I would make a wild guess that 50 sheets of plywood and about $300 worth of glass could have saved this building from what it is today!!

    Where was the mayor and all his elected cronies on the architectural review board for those 10 years? That is there job is it not? it to protect and conserve old historic buildings is it not? Or has everyone been focusing on the double speak we are reading in the local newspaper the post who rarely does any investigating but basically gets its news directly from press releases released by Nancy the on staff city attorney.

    The local fire department cited the prior owner David Heck several times to get a new rear door to keep out vandals and the weather, which he or anyone else from the city did. It could have been boarded up for about $100— Just for the record i had a custom rear door made and installed at the fire chief request for over $3000, the first one in 10 years.

    Here are the real facts:

    #1. The architectural review board gave its seal of approval on the entire project and I did a complete walk thru with several of the members. They are supposed to be professionals pledged to protect these old buildings regardless of there salary. So when they gave me the seal of improvement on the the tv by the way I felt pretty secure.

    #2. The mayor has been in that building and knows it in and out since he tried to get it away from the prior owner years before. Remember he is a real estate developer first and a mayor second. So if he saw a problem he certainly could have stopped it right there.

    #3. I hired what i felt at the time was the best architect for that type of real estate in the city of Vicksburg you know him by skippy tumenellow and I paid him thousands to come on the project. He did a complete walk thru the entire building including walking on the entire roof. If there was a problem with the building would not he say something before i paid him thousands of dollars?

    He is the ultimate professional on this job and if the building needed a structural engineer for further studies would he not say something to someone? anyone? me? the inspections dept? So if he cant find a flaw should i be able to?

    #4. Victor grey lewis and his crew went thru the entire building with me and he looked at every brick and joint in the place, if there was a problem would not the cheif of the inspections dept said something? I felt pretty confident that the building was in good shape at that point with all these so called experts doing there job.

    #5. I hired the most experience brick mason in the south with over 40 years of experience. Not once did he tell me we had a problem with bricks, not once. Im always concerned for safety thats why I hire the best.

    #6. I hired the #1 structural engineer in the world, the architect that headed up the team on the twin towers attack and failure in New York. And it was his professional opinion that the building is worthless and if you rebuild it all you would do is replace everything it would not be restored just rebuilt and if anyone knew a cause of the collapse he sure did not. PLEASE do not be fooled or swayed by what you read in the Vicksburg Post. I have travelled the world and I have not seen such a corrupt newspaper in all my 59 years. They have not printed anything I had to say but printed every word of any official from the city word for word without 5 minutes of investigation. Lets face it this newspaper deals with high school baseball not politcal corruption on this scale. They are clearly out of there league.

    #7. Im a businessman and part time real estate developer and I try to make good decisions that make sense because when I make a bad one and it cost our company more I cant just levy and new tax to cover it. So it was plain to me and anyone that has seen this building that this building is gone, over, done. BUT!!!
    The Mayor called his friend and political supporter Louis Miller to do the clean up and put a $800,000 fence around it. NO IM NOT JOKEING this was and still is the plan they even got someone to write a bid for it. So Mr Miller, you know Louis don’t you? Hes the one that rebuilt lawrence leyons stone fence around his house!!! Oh what a coincidence

    #8. He called louie from his cell phone from my office with no bid, no council meeting not really with my approval IS THAT LEGAL? he just took it over cause the fix was in. Plain and simple Lawrence and Louie knew there was a $1,000,000 insurance policy on it and they were going to get there share with or without my approval. Why do you think there is such a to do about this old building? You think Lawrence or anyone else really cares about it? The building that went with the windows broken open for 10 years?? Please people look beyond the print on the front page of the post and find out the real story.

    #9 Any time a major building falls down the mayor of that city can call an emergency and bring in the state people for assistance. Did they do that? Heck no they dont want anyone to fool around or know about there golden plan on getting the work to shore up a building that has seen its day 50 years ago. The state could have been brought in at no charge to do a report instead they got one of there hired guns sparks engineering to create a report that it would cost $800,000 for the clean up and build a fence!! The report, just the report cost the citizens of vicksburg $16,000 True story! Lets move on shall we it gets better!

    #10 Louis Miller and his construction company got full approval to bring in heavy equipment on my land, my property without a real contract and started work. My 86 pound wife got out there and said: “Stop, this is our property and we have our own workers on staff and we will not allow you to do this”. They backed off but the city then got a STOP WORK ORDER and threatened to arrest us for cleaning up our own mess!!! _________ You see my friends its not about me or an old building its about $1,000,000 in insurance money!

    #11 Why the price $800,000?? Yes how did they come up with that figure and get a professional to write up a report to justify it? Thats an easy one, at that time I owned about 10 pieces of property in Vicksburg, most of them apartment houses and my equity just happen to be about $800,000 Oh what a coincidence!!! This is the plan___Force the work, rebuild, clean up or whatever you do to a collapsed old building, bring in all the big equipment you can to make it look good then get a lien on the building for $800,000. OK you following me here? lets go to part two shall we?

    #12. When they get the lien (and im sure they will) they can then enforce it thru real estate taxes and not only put it on the building but on all the property that i owned too!!! And wipe us out completely, all the hard work and savings it took 20 years to produce will be wiped out at the stroke of a pen!___________Yea Vicksburg Politics you gotta love it! But theres more!!!

    #13. Why has not the Post or someone, anyone asked why are they going after me? Preston Reuther instead of the insurance company that wrote the builders risk policy? Don’t you find that strange? not one mention of who owns the policy, who wrote it, how much nothing not one word? Why? because if that gets out most people will put two and two together and figure out there real love is for the money, not a broken down old building that cannot be repaired without someone getting killed. Lets move on

    #14. Hennessy Insurance wrote the policy where a 40,000 square foot building collapsed and numerous men almost got killed but guess what? we did not get a letter from them,, a card and not even a phone call! A one million dollar policy and no call dosent that sound strange? And when we called they were highly insulted that we tracked the owner down and asked him to come down which he did not. They wrote the policy thu ZURICH INSURANCE AGENCY yes one of biggest companys in the world and they have not paid one thin dime on it. I would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight them which we dont have. So how does a Mississippi Insurance commissioner let this happen? How can Hennessey write junk insurance policys? (Sounds like a katrina deal eh)?

    Frankly knowing what we knew and one million dollars at stake we were afraid of what might happen to us and we packed up our home business and left as quickly as we could. Oh, on the contractor pressuring washing the building__________That person who they claim did that was indicted for fraud on a local home owner and they had all the evidence they needed to send him to prison for years, but the judge set him free!! Yes they set him free after he stole $10,000 from the lady that was rebuilding the old bank building downtown. It was nothing less then amazing that he could get out of that BUT BUT BUT–Could it be that a deal was made? Freddie Parsons goes free for him testifying to anything on this up coming civil trial? Oh no that could not happen in Vicksburg could it?

    The truth is was that the building was 150 years old and neglected for 10 years by the entire city administration. Made from sun baked (not fired) slave made red river brick and they just dont hold up forever> They fall all the time and just so happens all of the morter has disintegrated between the bricks, turned to powder and it would not take much to bring it down. But why didnt the brick masons catch that? the architectural review board catch it? victor grey lewis catch it? The mayor? the inspectors that were in and out of the building? Skippy tuminelo the architect on duty? The real estate agents and most of all why did David Hecht not tell me that the rear of the building had collapsed before I ever looked at it?

    The building fell because of 10 years of neglect just like many of the other old building in Vicksburg but this one had a big insurance policy!!! Thats the difference and thats why its still there and thats why the city is fighting like crazy to get it!! Other then me opening my big mouth to king Lawrence.

    The trial comes up soon its been about a year and a half. I want to 7 Vicksburg lawyers for assistnace they all turned me down!!! afraid of what might happen to them. We won a change of venue and two or three judges did not want it either and now its back in Vicksburg. Im not a gambling man but ain’t a shot in hell im going to win this one!!

    My e mail is attached feel free to e mail And one more thing I want to thank the owner of this website one day Vicksburg might get the REAL NEWS maybe it can start right here!

  6. Mr. Reuther, I am sorry to say you have run into the well known “Good Ole Boys” system that has gotton over on people in this city for as long as I can remember.

    It is all about the almighty dollar! Greed is ruthless and ugly. There is no honor in greed. We know who the people are and we know how they work. One has to wonder just how much money will it take for them to be satisfied! When will it be enough? Everyone of these people appear to have everything they could possibly want and yet, they still want more money and more power.

    If I were you, I would keep trying to get this out of Vicksburg and keep looking for a Judge who isn’t afraid to take the case. I wish you all the luck in the world.

  7. Preston, I have a local talk radio show. I would love for you to come on the show and tell your side of the story.

    The show is “Live from the Klondyke” on 1490 am, Mon – Fri from 7:30 to 9:00 am.

    Feel free to call me at 601-638-4321 or email the show at:

    You won’t have to come to town, you can call in.

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