Rev. Lee Bruner walked in front of his Caillavet Street church and pointed to the land Biloxi bought. "From the stake to the fence, down to the parking lot is the property that they city purchased through eminent domain," he said.
Living Waters Ministries received nearly $800,000 for that property. Biloxi needed the land so it could widen Caillavet Street. Now, the church wants to buy an empty lot just past its fence. "This would become our new parking lot, and would also meet the city's setback requirement." the reverend said.
But Rev. Bruner said talks with Biloxi to buy the Elder Street lot haven't gone anywhere. "We make an offer, and all they say is it's a low ball offer," Rev. Bruner said. "How can it be a low ball offer when their own appraisal says it's $2.25 a square foot, and we offered $3.50 a square foot?"
Administrators at Biloxi City Hall wouldn't talk on camera about Living Waters Ministries. A statement from the mayor's office simply said the city wouldn't retry this issue in the media.
According to councilman Jim Compton, Biloxi has procedures it must follow when it sells city property. It can't negotiate with just one company or one group. It must accept bids from anybody interested in the land.
Rev. Bruner is definitely interested. "The point is, we have property adjacent to us that could be utilized for the parking lot that we lost," Bruner said. "And then the property that we do have, we can continue to use it for what we have."
As for the rent issue that came up at Tuesday's city council meeting, Rev. Bruner said his church had no plans to pay Biloxi $500 a month, just so his congregation could park on land it once owned. "It just seems like they're trying to push us off the property," he said.
On Thursday night, the Living Waters Ministries board of directors meets. According to Rev. Bruner, the board will discuss what the church will do, if it can't buy the property adjacent to its Caillavet Street sanctuary.