WDAM-TV reports that Hattiesburg began Monday knocking down a decayed building at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. The city is paying a contractor $340,000, with work expected to take 45 days.
City officials blocked a street adjoining the building in July, saying they feared for the safety of passers-by.
The Rev. Kenneth Fairley, Mount Carmel's pastor, entered prison in February after being convicted of skimming federal money from a housing rehabilitation program. A political ally of former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, Fairley is appealing his conviction.
Fairley is imprisoned in Louisiana and scheduled for release in September 2019. Fairley was fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution to the federal government.