After some deliberation, officials from the City of Petal now have an idea of what can be done to restore the former Petal Library building on East Central Avenue, which has sat vacant for several years.
Jerry Dixson of Love Joy Peace Ministries, the organization that owns the building, appeared Nov. 2 before the Petal Board of Aldermen to let the board know his plans for rehabilitating the building, at least for the time being. Dixson said his first step would be to board up and paint the bottom windows of the building before replacing some of the other damaged wood on the cladding.
“I’m not pushing (to sell it) – I will take offers on it, but I would rather do some work on it,” said Dixson, who has owned the building since 1996.. “It’s a historical building, and that’s one of the reasons I want to do this.
“When we first had it, it was a church, and then when I got involved I wanted to do a disaster recovery ministry. I’ve just moved around for the last 15 years.”
Dixson said his immediate focus would be to secure the building, which has been vandalized several times over the years, particularly with broken windows. He estimated that will cost approximately $200,000 and take about six months to complete.
“That’s getting it into shape where I won’t say it’s ‘livable,’ or able to be occupied, but that will at least have it to where it’s presentable,” Dixson said. “The shingles, I put them on after (Hurricane) Katrina, so those are good.
“I want to make it for the community, a community resource.”
Mayor Tony Ducker had previously expressed concerns about asbestos in the building, which he said could run upwards of $30,000 if the facility needed to be torn down.
“I think that will cause the expense of rehabbing the place to go up exponentially,” he said. “But if there’s some ways he can incorporate some of that that’s existing, and take the good parts of it and do that, I think he can save himself some money.
“But it’s still going to be a substantial endeavor for sure.”
According to www.deltacomputersystems.com, the last filed deed for the former library is from the year 2002. However, since 2016, the property has been sold to Greenvalley Investments LLC, GJ Tax Sale Properties LLC, Quicksilver Tax Funding LLC, Woodmark Investments LLC, and again to Greenvalley Investments LLC due to taxes being unpaid or delinquent.
The following individuals have redeemed taxes on the property over the course of those years:
- James Armstrong Jr. on Aug. 28, 2019;
- Jerry Dixson on Aug. 24, 2020;
- Jerry Dixson on Aug. 26, 2021; and
- Daniel Cervantes on Oct. 19, 2021.
Board members will check in on the matter in 90 days to see what progress has been made on the building.
“I know there’s some challenges over there, but obviously from a city perspective, if there’s something that can be done, we want to exhaust every avenue that we can to see it through before we take a drastic move like tearing it down,” Ducker said.
Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, said she would like to take some time before making a decision on the building, as there have been several individuals or organizations in recent years who have expressed interest in the property. That includes proposals to put a small business in the building, to civic organizations needing a home for their operations.
“I would just like to take the time to maybe open it up, so people can actually come and look at it to see what state it’s in, and how much expense it would take to bring it back to original condition or something better,” Wilson said. “Then we could see if we have any takers; there are ways to mitigate the asbestos siding that wouldn’t be that expensive.
“The expense actually comes when you start taking it down, and there are ways you can put siding on top of it, and it’s not as much of an issue. But at this point, we honestly don’t know the shape of the building; we haven’t been in it, and so personally I would just like to have an opportunity to go in there and take a look at it, and then open it up to some other individuals who might want to take a look at it and go from there, before we declare it needing to be destroyed.”