Antioch Third Baptist Church at the corner of Gillespie and Spring Street may face condemnation for a damaged roof, according to Starkville city officials. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
October 30, 2017 12:23:24 PM
A Starkville church building located in an area of budding development could be condemned if church members do not repair the roof.
City Community Development Director Buddy Sanders told The Dispatch he's attempted to notify Antioch Third Baptist Church, located at the southwest corner of the Spring Street-Gillespie Street intersection, of code violations due to its damaged roof.
The church has visible deterioration along portions of its roof. Sanders said his department made an initial inspection of the building on Oct. 18, and attempted to mail the church a letter, dated Oct. 19, of the violations shortly after. However Antioch's tax card does not list an address, nor is there an individual owner for the property.
"What that means for me is I can't put the notice through the court system and I have no one to serve," Sanders said. "However the board has the .. authority to condemn a structure after a notice period, which is 15 days, and a public hearing."
Antioch is also near the Russell Street corridor, where the city has poured resources in recent years to develop as a primary thoroughfare from downtown to Mississippi State University's campus. Street improvements and mixed-use developments are underway there, and hundreds of new apartment units have gone up along the corridor within the last few years.
Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, who represents the area where the church is located, said the church's proximity to Russell Street's ongoing development is part of what's spurred concern about its condition.
"There's a lot of development happening in that area and it's in the historic Needmore community," Walker said. "It's a face for the community and that neighborhood. In its current condition, it doesn't represent the community the way it should. It could give an impression of Needmore that's not one of what's really there."
Still, Walker wants to hear from church members before deciding whether to condemn.
"At the end of the day, if it's the church addressing the building or the city stepping in to address it, we need some change to happen there," he said.
If the church cannot come up with a plan to solve the problem quickly enough, at least one alderman confirmed to The Dispatch he'll favor moving ahead with condemnation.
"If the church appears before us on Nov. 7 and has a very excellent plan of action so that I'm convinced they will bring the property to compliance in an expeditious manner and not a long-term manner, I would be willing to give them some time," Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said. "I'm not willing to give the property owner a lengthy time to come to compliance.
"If there's no credible evidence, I will vote to condemn the property," he added. "And I will offer the motion to condemn it myself."
Perkins, who requested Sanders inspect the building earlier this month, said he wants the church to develop a plan so that the code violations are resolved by the end of the year.
Aldermen could decide to begin the condemnation process at the Nov. 7 board meeting. Should that happen, Sanders said, they will authorize him to post a notice on the front door, a sign on the church's property and post notice in the newspaper.
Sanders said the board can't take further action until after a public hearing, which has to be publicly noticed for 15 days. After that, the board can vote to officially condemn the property. If that happens, Sanders said he would likely begin getting bids for demolition.
"Typically what happens is either a community boards up a building or tears it down," Sanders said.
Problems with the building
Sanders said he has taped the code violation notice to the church's front door.
An inspection compliance report, dated Oct. 18, notes the "roof is in such a state that rain can enter building and roof framing needs repair."
In addition to the damaged areas along the roof, the building's steeple is crooked and looks from the outside as if it's sinking into the roof. Sanders said the steeple is less of a concern than other areas of the roof.
"The steeple looks bad, and is bad, but it's not structurally (necessary)," he said. "It's just up there. However, if you look at other portions of the roof -- I haven't been able to get into the church but I'm quite sure water is getting in. ... You don't have to be a structural engineer to see that maintenance has not been a priority."
This isn't the first time the city has notified the church about the roof issues, Sanders said. The city approached Antioch about a year ago. At the time, he said, the minister asked if the city could help because the church lacked the funds for it. Sanders said the city could not, but he directed her to people in the community that might donate to help fix the roof.
"Here we are a year later and nothing's taken place," he said.
The Dispatch was unable to reach a church representative.
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