Some of our readers had questions about the Bell Tower Restoration project at St. James Episcopal Church.
After the Aug. 25 article, church officials and committee members were kind enough to answer some additional questions about the nature of the tower's condition, the cost of the project, and other issues addressed by our readers.
They submitted the following information via e-mail:
The deterioration that we’re trying to address is structural in nature. This stems from water infiltration and the use of an overly hard mortar when the Church was re-pointed in the 1950s-1960s. As you can see if you look at the Bell Tower façade, some sections of the stonework have actually fallen off and we have had to rope off the front of the building.
We believe that the first phase of the Bell Tower reconstruction project, which includes rebuilding the top 10 feet of the tower and the roof, will cost no more than $500,000.
After completion of this first phase, we will attempt to address the additional issues relating to the stonework façade of the Bell Tower and the remainder of the Church in a multi-phase process. While the additional costs relating to the façade repair may run twice the cost of the original phase, the additional phases will no doubt take many years to complete.
The reason the cost is so high is that the project is very labor intensive, involves heavy materials and the work involving the first phase must be done at a height of 70 to 80 feet above the ground.
Neither the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, nor the Episcopal Church of the United States are directly involved in the project. Nor under our form of church governance would we expect them to be directly involved.
Even though the building is a source of concern, it does not diminish our desire to reach out to the community to fulfill our missions. St. James’ outreach to the community comes in many forms:
- George Rupprecht Fund: This summer, over 150 girls from 84 families have received school clothing, footwear and school supplies. At Christmas, we will again help the same number of girls with Christmas gifts. Year round, we help pay for extra-curricular activities and work to assure that each girl has a comfortable bed in which to sleep at night. This year, our budget is $72,000.
- Thrift Shop: St. James expanded its shop hours in 2010 to serve the community. Apart from clothing, we sell household items, books, toys, small furniture and lots of bric-a-brac. Persons coming to the George Rupprecht Fund are often given bags of clothing and household items for free. Four times a year, we host clothing giveaways.
- Episcopal Community Services: Serves the underprivileged in the Diocese of WNY.
- Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation: Sponsors children in Uganda to assist with schooling and medical needs.
- Comfort Food Dinners: Two dinners were held at St. James this past winter. All proceeds went to local charities.
- St. James is the local meeting place for other churches in the Deanery.
- St. James donates to the local food pantry, collects school supplies for children and, each Christmas, selects a local charity to support.
- We host many programs in the church so that the community can enjoy the ambience and the musical acoustics of the building, such as the Genesee Symphony, Genesee Chorale, Go-Art! and Crossroads House.
We have made the hard decision to stay at this location because of its viability to the community. St. James would exist and function without the building, but the building needs a caretaker and we have chosen to take on that role.
The alternative would be to leave a large untended building on Main Street. If we did not try to take care of the building, we would not be very good stewards of the building or good members of the community.
For more information, please call the church at 343-6802 or visit its website.