By LOU WILIN
McCOMB — McComb leaders are trying to prevent the former heart and soul of their business district from becoming a health hazard and eyesore.
Downtown buildings that once were part of Bennett’s Furniture Town, which closed four years ago, are now the sites of broken or boarded windows, and brick walls which are crumbling or sagging in spots.
Mayor Chuck Latta and others worry that glass or brick could fall on someone walking down one of the sidewalks on Main or Todd streets.
“The village is just trying to be proactive,” Latta said.
Bennett Bros. Furniture Co., the owner of 16 properties in the downtown, has until about Oct. 9 to respond to a certified letter from the village, seeking its cooperation in an inspection.
If the village gets no response, it will inspect the buildings without Bennett Brothers’ help. It can have repairs made and add the tab to the company’s real estate taxes, Latta said.
Bennett Bros. President Joseph Wasson declined to comment for this story.
Wasson and his father, Charles, bought the business from the Bennett family in 1996. The business declined over the years. Charles died in 2012 and Joseph Wasson closed the business in 2013.
Within months, he founded the McComb Economic Development Organization, of which he is still president. Wasson also is president of McComb Rotary Club and was project coordinator for the McComb “Heart and Soul” project, which reportedly is trying to revitalize the community based on local values.
But the former Bennett Furniture buildings are still declining, and Wasson does not seem to be doing anything about it.
“We’re just concerned about the safety and security of the buildings,” Latta said. “We attempted to have a conversation with Joe (Wasson) about his plans, future plans for the building, and how he is going to be able to maintain them.”
“Joe did not want to participate in that conversation,” the mayor said. “We invited him to come and talk, and Joe chose not to come.”
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