Hattiesburg city officials announced Thursday plans to close three roads surrounding Mount Carmel Baptist Church in the Hub City.
“This is obviously an unfortunate situation, but you have a building on a main thoroughfare that is in danger of collapse,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “Effective at 7 p.m. Friday, we will be closing off a segment of north main street, between east 5th and east 6th streets, this is obviously not ideal, but our priority is the safety of our citizens.”
The State Bank of Texas, who is the church's mortgage lender recently revealed the bank will not allocate and additional resources to making sure the property is no longer a threat to public safety.
“The church is currently in litigation with its insurance company regarding proceeds from the 2013 tornado, they are also in conversations with the State Bank of Texas, which is who holds their mortgage now, while that is going we have to move and protect our citizens,” said Barker.
“We’ve had our code enforcement manager, our fire marshal, our building official and two structural engineers take a look at it, and they both all concluded unanimously that this building was in danger of immediate collapse,” said Barker. “This will allow us time to identify next steps, we are going to ask the council to move forward to mitigate the long-term risks of this.”
“We’ve been working with Mount Carmel Baptist Church for well over a year and a half to come to the best decision about what to do with the property,” said Mark Jordan, manager of the code enforcement division for the city of Hattiesburg. “Based on those discussions, the church agrees with the City’s paramount concern for public safety and that immediate action needs to be taken on the most severely damaged portions of the building.”
“If that building did collapse and it fell toward north main street, you could see something catastrophic happen to a family or a pedestrian,” said Barker.
Detour routes have been set up for standard traffic at Main Street and 4th Street and at Main Street and 7th Street. Detour signs will be in place to assist traveling motorists.
Large commercial vehicles will need to take Bouie Street (Highway 11) to access downtown Hattiesburg or Old Highway 42. Signage will be posted and communication with dispatchers and emergency response services will also be in place.