Mayor: ‘Can’t afford to wait’ to act on collapsed building

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Tuesday afternoon that the city is moving ahead with plans to address the partial collapse of the former Sahara Temple at 620 S. Main St.

“We just can’t afford to wait anymore,” Hollingsworth said in relation to the length of time it is taking to meet with building owner Garland Trice. “Two blocks of Main Street have been closed since Friday and several businesses have been unable to operate because of this collapse.”

Hollingsworth said that she instructed city inspectors Jamin Ross and Scott Warren to meet with local architects Dave Sadler of Nelson Architectural Group and Fred Reed of Reed of Reed Architectural Firm to compile a list of structural engineers.

“We need to find a structural engineer to come in and do a thorough assessment of the building’s stability,” Hollingsworth said. “We are starting the bid process tomorrow morning.”

Trice said that he did not have time to make any comments Tuesday.

Trice is scheduled to meet with city officials Wednesday afternoon.

Hollingsworth has said she plans to reintroduce legislation at a Pine Bluff City Council committee meeting Thursday that would lay out strict fines and penalties for code violations. The proposal was previously rejected by the council.

Main Street between Sixth and Eighth avenues has been closed to foot and vehicular traffic since Friday after the back half of the top floor of the three-story building collapsed. No one was injured in the incident.

The building, which dates back to 1912, is the second historical downtown building to collapse in 2014. A building at Fourth Avenue and Main Street partially collapsed in February and city officials performed an emergency demolition to bring it the rest of the way down. The site has yet to be cleared of debris.