SEMO ponders purchase of First Baptist property

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University may consider buying the First Baptist Church property that borders its Cape Girardeau campus, but school officials say they're far from making any decision.

Rumors have been rampant for several weeks that the university would buy the property. But school and church officials insist there's been no transaction.

"Yes, it is for sale," said the Rev. Jay L. White, pastor of the church. "No, we haven't sold it to SEMO."

Church leaders have talked to several prospective buyers, including the school and other churches, but no offer has been made for the property at 926 Broadway. The property includes over 600 parking spaces, a church and an activities building. The property borders the south end of the university campus near Houck Stadium.

"We probably will look at that," said Dr. Ken Dobbins, university president. But he said school officials haven't taken a serious look at the property yet.

"We will evaluate it just like we would evaluate any other piece of property that becomes available," he said.

The board of regents would have the final say, and the issue currently isn't on the agenda for the Dec. 13 board meeting, Dobbins said.

Private funding

The school would have to rely on private money from the Southeast Missouri University Foundation to buy the property, Dobbins said.

Doyle Privett, a Kennett, Mo., accountant and a member of the board of regents, said he was aware the property was for sale.

Privett said school officials informed the regents about a year ago of the possibility that the church might be for sale.

When asked why the church is for sale, White said: "We are trying to be the church of the 21st century and are looking for ministry opportunities for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Every church should be for sale if it advances God's kingdom."

People get attached to buildings but they are only "tools to be used for kingdom work," he said.

White said the congregation voted on Oct. 27 to pursue efforts to sell the church property and relocate. No site has been picked out for a new church to replace the 75-year-old structure, which held its first service there on March 27, 1927. The congregation was founded in 1834.

"We have an interest in selling it if the price is right," he said.

If the university were to buy the property, the church's parking lot could help improve parking on the south end of campus, Privett said. The university already leases 150 parking spaces from the church at that location. The buildings could be used for classrooms or offices, he said.

"I think it is something we would want to look at because of the proximity to the university," he said.

Privett said a lot depends on the possible uses and whether the price is right.

"At this point in time, it is just a hearsay deal," he said.

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