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posted: 4/24/2013 12:01 AM

Public's thoughts sought on fixing old Baptist church

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  • Daily Herald file photo/2008  Members of First Baptist Church of Batavia at 15 N. Washington St. in Batavia will celebrate services for the last time Sunday before moving the church to Geneva.. The church has been renamed Faith Baptist Church in preparation for the move to Geneva. The city of Batavia owns the property and is studying various uses for the site.

      Daily Herald file photo/2008 Members of First Baptist Church of Batavia at 15 N. Washington St. in Batavia will celebrate services for the last time Sunday before moving the church to Geneva.. The church has been renamed Faith Baptist Church in preparation for the move to Geneva. The city of Batavia owns the property and is studying various uses for the site.

 
 

If you have an opinion about what Batavia should do with the former First Baptist Church property, city officials want to hear it, as they contemplate repairs that could cost as much as $3.5 million.

The city services committee heard Tuesday a rough estimate of what it would take to make the church's three buildings usable again. It also learned that just to keep the buildings from deteriorating even more, $775,000 worth of roof and window repairs should be done in the next year or two.

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"I am in no hurry to make any decisions at this point," committee chairman Alderman Dave Brown initially said, calling for public comment. He also noted that in May the council will have six new members, and that he feels they should be brought up to speed about its condition and about a 2009 study for redevelopment of the parcel.

But he agreed with City Administrator Bill McGrath that a deadline should be set for making a decision.

"We need to know because that is going to come out of TIF (funding), and that will have a big impact on what we are going to do in the next couple years" on other projects, he said. The campus is in a tax increment financing district; part of the property taxes are set aside to improve the downtown.

Several aldermen, including the departing Jim Volk and Dawn Tenuta, asked for an estimate on demolition of any or all three structures: the 1889 sanctuary, a 1930s addition and a 1959 office/school addition. "I know tearing down that building will be very painful, but we need that data" to make a decision, Volk said.

The city bought the building for $715,000 in 2006; the Baptist congregation moved to a new building west of Batavia in 2008. In the mid-2000s, the Illinois Department of Transportation contemplated using part of the property to straighten out the jog on Route 25, which is on the eastern side of the church.

Another major issue is the support for the 1889 sanctuary. The main girder has cracks in it that indicate it has started to fail. Until that girder is reinforced, "we want to avoid having large groups of people gather in the sanctuary space," said Kenneth Itle, senior associate with the architectural and engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., which produced the report.

The buildings also have mold in the basements; asbestos floor tile; high radon readings; and lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.

Staff members will gather the information aldermen requested and include it in a final report to the committee.

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