It’s not suspicious at all when a backhoe appears on a Saturday morning behind a historic city-owned building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been the subject of intense local debate, has been included on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered List, and has not received any permits for demolition. This was what happened in Moss Point on Saturday, and the scene was caught on camera by an interested citizen. Sure enough, by 5:00, the old Moss Point City Hall and Water Works was rubble on the ground, according to a citizen’s post on the MDAH Historic Preservation Division Facebook page.
Hisonor Mayor Billy Broomfield, who has reportedly banned historic preservation commission members from entering city hall in response to their vote to make the building a local landmark in 2013, has not returned phone calls according to WLOX, the only local media to cover the demolition story so far. Aldermen say they didn’t know about it. Maybe the backhoe just accidentally knocked it down? Maybe the backhoe operator thought he was at a different address? Whoopsie!
In her 2013 post “Don’t Turn On the Water Works for Moss Point Just Yet,” Lolly Barnes pointed out that the City had a non-profit occupant willing to put $100,000 into a restoration and another $91,000 in potential funding from FEMA. Nevertheless, city leadership persisted in wanting the building demolished.
It’s been a bad summer: this is the second building that had been included on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered List to become a victim in the last month (in case you forgot about Mt. Holly). Many dedicated preservationists in Moss Point worked hard and against vindictive and undemocratic political retribution to save this building. They deserve commendation, and The Powers That Be, The Powers That Have Gotten Too Big For Their Britches, The Powers That Forget They Were Elected By Citizens, deserve shame, condemnation, and maybe legal action.
UPDATE: In a late story last night, WLOX reported that hisoner had this to say:
“It was not on the Mississippi Historical Register. I am told it was in an historic district. It was a city hall, a library, a jail and after that is was a fire station,” said Mayor Broomfield.
The Mayor also pointed that the board of aldermen gave him the green light two years ago to knock it down, but plans were put on hold due to lack of funding.
“We are no longer in the red, we are in the black and we were able to find enough money to tear the building down without having to go through a bid process, which is under $50,000, so we don’t have to do that.”
Although the demolition may not have been the most popular move in some folk’s eyes, the mayor claims the building was a safety hazard.
Although the building was not on the “Mississippi Historical Register” (there is no such thing–I assume he’s referring to the Mississippi Landmark designation), it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is, you know, a NATIONAL register. And congrats on getting around the bid process!