A handful of residents voiced their concerns against the possible demolition of Mount Carmel Baptist Church to Hattiesburg City Council Monday evening.
Right now, a portion of North Main Street is closed due to the "state of imminent danger" of the structure. The road was closed on July 14, 2017, after Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said "you could see something catastrophic happen to a family or a pedestrian" if the building was to collapse.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 15th. Councilman Carter Carroll said that is protocol for the city's Code Enforcement to take over the property and to determine the next step, if that is demolition.
"I would love for the city to stabilize and put back in the community, when we can help continue to support the community as the city has supported us in the past," Stan Johnson told council members Monday during the citizens forum.
Gabriel Bobbett, a pastor at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, told council members he was concerned with how fast the process seemed to be moving.
"I see other buildings in the communities that the city is not as anxious to tear down as they are particularly that building," Bobbett said. "I do have a concern with that."
Sandra Fairley, wife of Kenneth Fairley, a former pastor at the church, also spoke during the forum. Fairley, 63, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit theft of government money and two counts of receiving, retaining, concealing or converting money that belonged to the government in December. He is currently serving a three-year sentence in federal prison.
"We desire for stabilization instead of demolition," Fairley said. "And we are hoping the council will help us in this area and the city of Hattiesburg."
The State Bank of Texas, which 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.
City Council is currently accepting bids for the demolition project, if that is the way the city decides to go with the project,
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church Public Hearing: