City of Hattiesburg approves bid, portion of Mt. Carmel will be demolished

City of Hattiesburg approves bid, portion of Mt. Carmel will be demolished
Source: WDAM
M&M Services bid breakdown. Source: City of Hattiesburg
M&M Services bid breakdown. Source: City of Hattiesburg

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council held a special called meeting Thursday where they accepted a bid to demolish a portion of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.

The City of Hattiesburg closed roads around the building in July citing safety concerns.

Legally, the city had two options regarding the fate of Building B at Mt. Carmel. They could demolish the property, deemed unsafe and a menace to the community, or take no action at all. A municipality cannot fund a private entity, in this case Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, in an effort to restore or save the building.

A public hearing was held, and ultimately the council approved the acceptance of bids for demolition.

Only one bid was presented to the council by M&M Services.

That bid was accepted by council in a 3-0 vote at the amount of $339,970.00. Deborah Delgado was not present, and Nicholas Brown abstained from the vote.

Some church members voiced their concerns with the demolition of the building at the public hearing two weeks ago.

"Are we going to destroy a church? A historical edifice, that is part of the national story," said one church member.  "That is a part of Hattiesburg and the state of Mississippi, or are we going to preserve it?"

Another woman, who said she is not a member of the church but lives on Main Street, said something needed to be done with the property.

"That building is in a critical need. To have a hearing on stabilizing it, what are we going to stabilize?"

According to documents released by the city, church leaders were first made aware of the danger of the structure in April of 2016 after the church hired an architectural firm to assess the building.  In that assessment, a principal architect stated the building was "unstable, unsafe and in various stages of imminent collapse."

"Apologize to the city, the council to the community that we've gotten to this point. It should have never gotten to this point," said Mt. Carmel Pastor Gabriel Bobbett.  "But, it didn't get to the point because Mt. Carmel wanted it to get to this point, it got to this point because the legal systems that didn't work in favor of Mt Carmel for whatever reasons."

No date for demolition has been set at this time.