Glimmer of hope remains for historic church

MEEKER I Those who mourn the idea of losing the white frame building that has housed the Meeker United Methodist Church for more than a century have a “glimmer of hope” for the building’s salvation.
The church’s new facility on Eighth and Park is almost complete, but in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy, the old building must be torn down and replaced with a parking lot.
Church members have approached multiple community groups in search of a new home for the historic building to no avail. The church, the town, the cemetery district, and the historical society have all expressed a mutual desire to preserve the building, but none have the necessary funds to move it to a new location.
Enter residents Michele Morgan and Melinda Parker. At the Nov. 2 board meeting, they requested that the town would consider issuing a temporary certificate of occupancy to the church to allow the congregation to use their new facility before the old structure is demolished. Meanwhile, Parker and Morgan are forming a committee to find a new home for the old building and to raise the approximately $50,000 required for relocation.
“It’s crunch time, now. Nobody else stepped up, so we’re stepping up. If we don’t get it done by the end of July (2011), it will be demolished and nothing else will be said about it,” Parker said.
“The church would very much like to see it saved, and I think it’s important to our community to see it saved.” Parker is not a member of the church.
Issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy, according to the permit granted to the church in April 2010, is contingent upon the provision of two hard-surface handicapped parking spaces, among other inspections and code compliance requirements.
“The understanding was that there would be no TCO issued until the handicapped spaces are in place, as required by ADA. Those spaces are located where the old building exists right now,” said Town Attorney Jerry Viscardi.
Wade Bradfield, speaking as a member of Methodist Church and a member of their building committee, said, “We were all pretty much resolved to the idea of tearing the old building down, and then we got a glimmer of hope that there might be a way to save it,” referring to Parker’s and Morgan’s support.
“We do have space right now off the alley where we could have two ADA-compliant hard-surface parking spaces,” Bradfield said, adding that all the other conditions on the permit should be met within 60 days. “Our options right now are to bulldoze the old church and make the parking lot, or spend the winter in the old building without heat. So, when everything is complete, except the parking, can you guys give us a temporary certificate of occupancy?”
“If that’s the decision of the board, then yes, the administrative decision that was made in April (the variance request and permit) will have to be set aside, modified or overridden,” Viscardi said.
“I’m glad someone has stepped up,” Mayor Mandi Etheridge said in support of the request, and the challenge Parker and Morgan have adopted.
The Board of Trustees agreed to revise the variance request and create an extension, thereby providing a way for the church to use their new facility without demolishing the old building. Everything — including the parking spaces — will have to be completed by Sept. 30, 2011.
Trustee Danny Conrado added, “I look at this as an opportunity. It (the building) is savable. More savable than many of our other old buildings.”
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A resident’s request to place “Children at Play” signs on 13th Street between Park and Garfield prompted the board and town staff to look into the efficacy of such signage, and to consider possible options.
Debbie Morlan, neighborhood resident, addressed concerns about the “speed limit or lack thereof” and the number of multifamily housing units and trailer parks in that area.
The speed limit in town is 25 mph. Morlan says that’s too high in neighborhoods like hers, where there are lots of children present.
“We’ve had a couple close calls, lost a few dogs and cats, and that sort of thing. Who’s to say that couldn’t be a kid next time?”
After reviewing CDOT and other manuals, Police Chief Bob Hervey said it’s his opinion that signs will not make a “huge difference.”
“What we need to do is make sure we strongly enforce the violations in that area. We can put in a ‘no tolerance’ policy, with the understanding that we’re going to write tickets for any violation, and there’s not going to be any favoritism.”
A “no tolerance” policy means police officers do not have the discretion to decide which violations are ticketed. In other words, a vehicle traveling 26 mph in a 25 mph zone would get a ticket.
“I wouldn’t like to take the discussion of signs completely off the table, and I would like to take Chief Hervey’s recommendation to increase enforcement and see if that changes things,” said Mayor Etheridge.
Residents are asked to call the police dispatch at 878-5555 to report traffic violations.