Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Clinton property owner pleads guilty to 1,400 code violations.

The city of Clinton issued the following press release.


In an effort to preserve the historical integrity of Olde Towne, City of Clinton officials recently brought one Olde Towne Clinton property owner to court for over 1,400 misdemeanor charges (and counting) of multiple code violations including demolition by neglect of a historic building. Matt Wiggins of Kemah, Texas, was charged and has plead guilty to the charges in Clinton Municipal Court. 

Demolition by neglect is a legal term meaning the owner, by his own neglect, is allowing a historic structure to be demolished by his inaction and lack of proper maintenance.

Charges are connected to eight (8) historic structures within the Olde Towne Historic District owned by Wiggins, formerly of Clinton, Miss. Among the issues with Wiggins’ properties are broken windows, deteriorating or leaking roofs, crumbling mortar, mold, exposed electrical wiring, rotten floors and missing floor joists.

For many years, multiple city administrations had made numerous attempts to work with Wiggins to bring resolution to the neglect of the historical properties that represent a significant portion of the Olde Towne business District core.

Following multiple certified letters outlining the code violations and attempts to gain Wiggins’ cooperation to repair and restore the historic buildings, city officials began the process to charge Wiggins with fourteen counts per day of violation of city codes. Beginning in late September, once Wiggins accepted a certified letter notifying him of the violations, charges and fines began accruing.

With multiple violations accruing each day, over 1,400 charges and $200,000 in fines had accumulated as of the January 26 court date. The counts will continue to accrue each day until all repairs are made to the eight properties. Properties included in the violations include 110 and 112 West Leake Street; 402 Jefferson Street; 102 West Leake Street; and 304-310 Jefferson Street.

Due to jurisdictional boundaries related to the defendant’s Texas residence, the city was prohibited from serving a court summons until Wiggins returned to the state of Mississippi. On December 24, 2016 the city was notified that Wiggins was in town and immediately served Wiggins with a summons for Clinton Municipal court to answer the charges.

In commenting on the plea agreement and pursuit of Wiggins, Mayor Phil Fisher noted “the city will make every effort to protect the integrity of our City’s history and structures. This administration has pursued the upkeep of neighborhoods and businesses to protect property values.”

Wiggins entered a plea of not guilty at his January 12 arraignment but agreed to a plea deal at his January 26 trial in Clinton Municipal Court. Within the plea agreement, Wiggins is required to bring all properties up to code within 120 days or stand in contempt of court.

Should Wiggins fail to fulfill the requirements of the deal, Wiggins will be responsible for all accrued fines that could be over $400,000 by the late May 2017 completion deadline. In addition, Wiggins has waived extradition, with the understanding, that should he be in contempt of any plea provisions, he could be arrested and brought from Texas to Mississippi to face criminal charges as well as contempt of court charges. Contempt of court carries up to a $1000 fine and 180 days in jail per charge.

Provision was made in the plea agreement that allows Wiggins to sell the property, within specific parameters. Wiggins is prohibited from selling to any business or company he may own or have a vested interest in.

City prosecutor Kevin Rundlett noted the importance of securing the plea deal “though we were prepared to try the case, the City’s goal is to see the repairs and improvements in the buildings for the good of Clinton and the historic Olde Towne District. We (city) want to see them structurally sound and up to code.”










26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Clinton does a good job of protecting property values. I wish Jackson would do the same. Kind of makes me miss Frank Melton's urban renewal projects.

Anonymous said...

Once again Clinton shows Jackson how to get the job done. Now they need to build the wall.

Anonymous said...

Looks a lot better than many of buildings in our capital city.

Anonymous said...

This same "Wiggins" guy also owns or owned an antebellum home named Mount Holly on lake Washington in the Delta. Several years ago it mysteriously burned....

Anonymous said...

No way to bring those buildings to code within 120 days.His best bet is to donate them to the city.

Anonymous said...

looks like Matt has property problems in TX, also.

Anonymous said...

Article on Mt. Holly

https://misspreservation.com/2015/06/17/sad-news-from-lake-washington/

Anonymous said...

One of the most noticeable things about visiting Chattanooga is how clean the older parts of town are. There are some that are just slabs, but no debris, plastic, or other eyesores evident. It does put Jackson to shame.

Anonymous said...

Matt, a Delta Boy, is or was a fine young man. A lawyer he was also mayor of that Texas town. Surprised to learn this about him although I did know of Mt. Holly and watched it smoldering the next day. It was actually beyond repair and of no historical value after he let it fall into such a state of neglect. Something must be wrong with this man.

Anonymous said...

Must be the former textbook salesman. Had a good reputation. Not a world-class real estate investor.

Anonymous said...

City of Clinton will own these in due time

Anonymous said...

Ridgeland tried this with a rundown apartment complex and the slum lords sued them. Also, the federal government sued them. Got to let those residents live in slums or be accused of racism.

Anonymous said...

All of those buildings in Clinton are empty. Big difference. Ridgeland targeted the residents. Clinton targeted the structures.

Anonymous said...

Mount Holly was hardly "beyond repair". It would have been EXPENSIVE to repair. But it was in far better shape than was Mont Helena. A tacky twit from Madison County, who fancies himself an architectural "expert" (actually, he's in medical sales) made a travesty of Mont Helena's "restoration" (more a transmogrification), but that decaying WOODEN hulk was fully renovated, despite missing columns, crumbling chimneys, missing floors, missing windows, missing doors...

Mount Holly's outer walls are solid brick, 5-bricks-thick, and so there was far less to decay. Too, many of the decorative elements were (are) of metal, and so not subject to rot.

I've been around too many lazy, good-for-nothing Delta people (including my own cousins), who think that falling plaster, or peeling paint, mean a structure is "beyond repair". And so, I can imagine "word spread" that Mount Holly was "too far gone". The same was said about Belmont, in '72, when my family almost bought it - almost... Some know-it-all jackass declared the foundation was cracked, and that Belmont was "going to collapse, ANY MINUTE!" 45 years later, the house is still solid as a rock.

Oh, and there's a whole YouTube section on 'The Talented Mr. Wiggins', if anybody's curious. Just look under 'Kemah Texas Mayor Matt Wiggins'.

ELMalvaney said...

The Lake Washington neighbors of Mt. Holly pleaded for years to get Matt Wiggins to maintain or even check on his historic mansion, which was loved and lived in just before he bought it in 2000. I don't know if he was ever a "nice young man" but he's a nasty piece of work now, litigious and disagreeable. If he rots in prison the rest of his life, it wouldn't be long enough for what he did to Mt. Holly and for the disdain with which he treated Lake Washington residents, several of whom offered to buy the property to restore, even after its interior had been vandalized past the point of having any value.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:07 - You conveniently left out the part about the failed mortar used throughout Mount Holly. It is well documented that crumbling and failed mortar cannot be restored. It's little more than milk and water made into a paste.

You can have a million nice red bricks and the cutest of antebellum remains for photographers to gush over, but if you have worthless mortar, you have nothing but a pile of bricks ready to hit the ground at any minute.

PS: The man who restored and owns Mont Helena lives in Rolling Fork, not Madison.

Anonymous said...

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Former-Kemah-mayor-s-land-deals-questioned-5240886.php

Anonymous said...

https://www.law360.com/articles/485096/ex-texas-mayor-hit-with-20m-suit-over-land-swindle

Anonymous said...

Great job Mayor fisher and the city of Clinton! Makes me proud to call it home. A town with people and leadership that actually give a damn! I wish the town would purchase the properties and breathe even more life into Olde Town. I'm so proud of Clinton!

Anonymous said...

Until Wiggins purchased Mount Holly, it was being operated as both a family home and b&b. Through its years of sitting neglected, several people showed interest in purchasing the property from Wiggins, who seemed to enjoy saying "NO". One of the last men to seek purchase, Joshua Cain, spent almost two years attempting to communicate and negotiate, to no positive end. Josh eventually bought, saved, and is in the process of renovating Belmont Plantation, located just south of Greenville in Wayside. Mount Holly burned 6 months later. Mount Holly could have been saved, by someone whose profession includes period renovations. The owner just didn't care about the architecture, the history or the community's interests.

Anonymous said...

Until Wiggins purchased Mount Holly, it was being operated as both a family home and b&b. Through its years of sitting neglected, several people showed interest in purchasing the property from Wiggins, who seemed to enjoy saying "NO". One of the last men to seek purchase, Joshua Cain, spent almost two years attempting to communicate and negotiate, to no positive end. Josh eventually bought, saved, and is in the process of renovating Belmont Plantation, located just south of Greenville in Wayside. Mount Holly burned 6 months later. Mount Holly could have been saved, by someone whose profession includes period renovations. The owner just didn't care about the architecture, the history or the community's interests.

Anonymous said...

My personal observation is that insurance can make some properties more valuable dead than when they're alive.

ELMalvaney said...

Maintaining the soft lime mortar in Mt. Holly and in almost every other building before the advent of Portland cement mortars in the 20th century is a very common repair, called "re-pointing," and can be done by most any experienced mason. Lime mortars are designed to be soft so when the building shifts, the mortar does the shifting rather than the bricks themselves. Old-time builders weren't just throwing ingredients together--this was highly skilled labor. Mt. Holly did have a mortar problem, but it wasn't its lime mortar, it was the Portland cement that had been used in a 1970s repointing, as you can see in this picture: https://misspreservation.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/dsc_0149-small.jpg. Because Portland cement is harder than the bricks, any movement comes from the bricks themselves, and in time, the hard face of the bricks begins to pop off and leave the softer cores exposed. But this could also have been solved with repointing and replacement of the damaged bricks in the front columns. Bottom line, when Matt Wiggins bought Mt. Holly, it was a liveable and grand historic house, in need of basic maintenance. After only a decade, because of his neglect, it had begun to be the meeting place for vandals and ghost-hunters and who knows who else. And after that, its descent was rapid and devastating. Even still, the brick walls and their soft mortar are still standing two years after the long and hot fire, so blaming its demise on soft mortar is just not accurate.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Malvaney: I was simply quoting information from your earlier articles found on the internet regarding this location. I've just spent an hour and a half reading through a thread of yours on the subject of this property.

I am no architect or structural engineer and did not mean to imply that mortar was the only problem with this structure, as I have no knowledge of which failed when or how.

I see now, on that site, where you have invoked the notion of 'prison time', which might be a stretch as relates to ignoring endangered, historical properties.

While Mr. Wiggins may be lots of things and is obviously guilty of neglect and pomposity, I'm not sure he is a criminal, at least in that respect.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous at 8:07 - You conveniently left out the part about the failed mortar used throughout Mount Holly. It is well documented that crumbling and failed mortar cannot be restored. It's little more than milk and water made into a paste.

You can have a million nice red bricks and the cutest of antebellum remains for photographers to gush over, but if you have worthless mortar, you have nothing but a pile of bricks ready to hit the ground at any minute.

PS: The man who restored and owns Mont Helena lives in Rolling Fork, not Madison.
February 9, 2017 at 5:03 AM

Having owned a home constructed in the 1850s, and being from a family who own, and have owned, historic houses, from Dupont Circle to Esplanade Avenue, I know a bit about historic mortar. And I've heard, for DECADES, about Mount Holly's mortar. Some yutz pointed over the original mortar (which was appropriate for the brick), with a modern mortar (a bad thing, in this context). But considering that this would only have impacted the outer few inches of wall (on walls five-bricks-deep), I'm pretty confident that the Portland Cement, as applied, had NOT transformed the walls into "nothing but a pile of bricks ready to hit the ground at any minute".

The ruins of a church on that same lake, constructed with the same sort of mortar as Mount Holly's, and the same sort of brick, still stand, despite a devastating fire, and well over a century without a roof. So, your "little more than milk and water made into a paste" description would not seem to apply here.

As for Mont Helena, the Owner had "Aesthetic Guidance" from someone in Madison County. That "Aesthetic Guide" is proud to have persuaded the Owner to scrap Mont Helena's "showboat windows" (diamond-shaped panes on the upper windows) with something in keeping with the only style the "Aesthetic Guide" seems to know exists (South Louisiana Antebellum). The fact that the house is standard all-American Gilded Age 'Colonial Revival', and not anything like 'Shadows on the Teche', seems not to have mattered to the "Aesthetic Expert".

That person also is proud to have advised that the original slate roof (still in near-perfect condition) was "too heavy". So, the expensive Vermont Green slate was scrapped, and Asphalt Shingles were installed.

In any event, the Owner should be VERY proud of having saved the home. All things considered, the resurrection of Mont Helena was miraculous.

Jinxy said...

You can save any structure. Or at least parts of it. I live in Washington and it is amazing what they can do with old buildings. Some are gutted to the core then brought back to former splendor. May not be original but pretty close to it. So you can't tell me that a little mortar problem is a good enough a reason not to try to save our history in Mississippi.

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