First Congregational Church of Malone, 2 Clay St. Alexander Violo/Malone Telegram

MALONE — After speaking with board members from the First Congregational Church of Malone, village trustees agreed to waive permit fees as the church on Clay Street, moves forward with repairs to the building’s roof.

Michael Maneely, a director on the board at the church, and Donna Putraw, a member of the church’s board of directors and the office manager at the church, were on hand to discuss the repair work with trustees, Monday evening.

Several blocks of stone fell from the church’s tower in August, necessitating the need for repairs.

According to Maneely, work was done to have the church’s tower pointed ten years ago, but the repairs have not lasted, and the church has brought in engineers and architects to address the issue.

“We have hired a firm out of Albany, Ryan Biggs, gave us a report, they are historical engineers,” Maneely said.

Mayor Andrea Dumas asked what caused the issues at the steeple.

“According to the engineer’s report it was shallow pointing and they used products that were non-conducive to the church because it is a sandstone mortar mix, the original mix of it, which has to have a breathability factor in order to stay in the correct state,” Code Enforcement Officer Brian Lamondie said.

Lamondie said some of the products used in the past have removed this breathability.

“That makes the limestone mortar mix turn to sand behind the pointing,” Lamondie said, “So as you put a hole in the new pointing of it, you see nothing but sand rolling out of the building.”

Maneely said Scott Lupini of Utica was the only contractor who offered his assistance with the repair work.

“We are not a big church, we don’t have a lot of money coming in and I am asking the village board to kind of help us out on the fees for the building permit,” Maneely said, “We figure it is going to cost us $300,000 to fix the steeple, when we just spent over three quarters of a million dollars to have it pointed.”

Lamondie said Lupini Construction Inc., of Utica, has done projects in different parts of the North Country.

“They specialize in the restoration of churches and older buildings, that is what they do, they are not just a general contractor,” Lamondie said, “They have restored several churches in Upstate New York in the past.”

Maneely said the Utica-based firm recently worked in Chateaugay and Massena, while Lamondie said they have worked in Gouverneur.

“We are going to get it secured so it doesn’t fall down and doesn’t hurt anybody,” Maneely said.

Maneely said the planned repairs should last 25 to 30 years.

“It looks like what they are going to do is more secure the tower for now,” Lamondie said, “They are going to get the tower secured so that there is no way it can fall apart any further, then they are going to approach it in the spring for repairs.”

Maneely said additional work at the church includes addressing an issue in the back of the building, where the structure is pushing out, despite repairs to that section twenty years ago.

“We don’t have any idea what that is going to cost,” Maneely said, “I’m asking for the village to kind of help us out on the building permit fees.”

Lamondie said the fees for the building permit, for the initial repairs, are $600.

“It may not be the only permit that they need,” Lamondie said, “This is the permit for the repairs to the bell tower, for the stabilization and the repairs to the roof. It excludes the other portion of the building that may need work”

Lamondie said he would take a closer look at the back corner of the church this week.

Maneely discussed the historic nature of the church and said he felt the church’s current membership couldn’t walk away from making the needed repairs.

“It is historical, coming down Main Street you see that steeple heading west, we can’t do that. In my heart you can’t do that. If they can’t be fixed the only way to do it is tear it down but this can be fixed,” Maneely said, “That church was part of the Underground Railroad, a vice president went to that church, there’s a lot of history there, and we honestly just can’t walk away.”

Putraw said the church doesn’t want to walk away from the repairs but they need some support.

“Every little step we take cost us another few hundred dollars,” Putraw said, “We have been nickel-and-dimed every step of the way.”

Putraw said the church currently has roughly 100 members.

Additionally, Maneely said the current church is the third to sit on the corner of East Main and Clay streets.

“That is the third church that sits on the corner of Clay and Main street, one was torn down, one burnt and now we have this church from 1883,” Maneely said, “We have not stopped working on the church. I have been a member of the church for 32 years, and I have been on the board off and on.”

Maneely said he has reached out to Malone’s representatives in the state assembly, state senate and U.S. Congress.

Dumas said the village will help out with any needed letters of support.

Lamondie said the main sanctuary is currently closed but pending repairs he would not be opposed to reopening it.

“With Christmas coming up I’m sure they could use their main sanctuary,” Lamondie said, “If they can get the shoring of the tower up, I’m willing to allow them back in the church, as of right now they can’t be in that area.”

Putraw said the church currently holds services in the chapel.

“We have a chapel that is large enough to seat probably about 80 to 85 comfortably, and we are small enough that it is working,” Putraw said.

Lamondie said he does not feel the chapel is close enough to the tower for there to be a threat to people continuing to utilize the chapel.

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