Port De­posit church va­cated due to dam­aged roof

OBIT­U­ARY POL­ICY

Cecil Whig - - OBITUARIES & LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— New Life Faith Cen­ter’s sanc­tu­ary is not fit for oc­cu­pancy due to a col­laps­ing roof, ac­cord­ing to church lead­er­ship.

The Rev. Larry John­son, se­nior pas­tor of the church on Ja­cob Tome High­way since 2001, pointed to cracks run­ning from floor to ceil­ing, and ar­eas where the ceil­ing is bow­ing down.

New cracks and splits ap­pear daily, said Shawn John­son, Larry’s son and as­so­ciate pas­tor of the 33-yearold non-de­nom­i­na­tional church with 100 mem­bers.

“About six months ago, we started see­ing the cracks in the walls,” Shawn said.

A struc­tural en­gi­neer was hired to in­ves­ti­gate and found that trusses were bow­ing and break­ing with nails prov­ing to be the only thing hold­ing the sup­ports in place. With­out the proper brac­ing, all the weight was shift­ing to one lo­ca­tion.

In the let­ter from David Mincin, prin­ci­pal with the engi­neer­ing firm Mincin Pa­tel Mi­lano, of Bal­ti­more, the church learned just how bad off

PORT DE­POSIT

the roof had be­come.

“Within the orig­i­nal por­tion of the build­ing ... we ob­served that ba­si­cally each ex­ist­ing scis­sor truss was dam­aged,” the let­ter said. “This con­di­tion rep­re­sents par­tial struc­tural fail­ure and ad­versely af­fects the struc­tural in­tegrity of the build­ing.”

In an­other sec­tion of the build­ing, Mincin’s let­ter car­ries a mea­sure of dis­be­lief.

“The fram­ing at ‘Area C ap­pears to defy ra­tio­nal anal­y­sis. We can­not defini­tively de­ter­mine why it is still func­tion­ing as it ob­vi­ously has since it was con­structed,’” he said in the let­ter dated March 2, adding that the com­po­nents “ap­pear to just lean against each other at the in­ter­sec­tion with no pos­i­tive at­tach­ment.”

Pic­tures taken dur­ing the in­spec­tion show gaps of 2 inches or more where nails have come loose, wood has snapped, and brack­ets used to join pieces of wood to­gether have failed.

“He said ‘It’s your prayers that is the only thing keep­ing it up,’” Larry re­called of the con­ver­sa­tion he had af­ter the en­gi­neer walked through the ceil­ing for his in­spec­tion. “We got a let­ter March 2 say­ing the build­ing was no longer safe for oc­cu­pancy.”

Pleas­ant View Bap­tist Church of­fered the use of its for­mer school build­ing, which is where the con­gre­ga­tion now meets.

“The con­gre­ga­tion has adapted well,” Shawn said, adding the wor­ship times are con­sis­tent with their home sched­ule with Sun­day School at 10 a.m. and wor­ship at 11 a.m. Va­ca­tion Bi­ble School is still be­ing dis­cussed.

Also be­ing dis­cussed is how to pay for the ex­ten­sive re­pairs, es­ti­mated at more than $275,000.

“We are in the po­si­tion that we could fi­nance it, but we can only get a loan for 80 per­cent,” Larry said. “We need to raise $50,000. We can’t get the re­pairs started un­til we have that money.”

Along with var­i­ous fundrais­ing ideas for the near fu­ture, a Go­FundMe page has been set up. The page was es­tab­lished to raise the en­tire amount, even though the smaller amount is the ini­tial tar­get.

It’s go­ing to be a big job, Shawn said. S.E. Smoker In­cor­po­rated in Stras­burg, Pa., won the bid to re- move the roof and re­dis­tribute the weight to avoid a col­lapse.

“They’ll put in new trusses, in­su­la­tion, dry­wall, HVAC and a new roof with 40-year shin­gles,” Shawn said.

“It’s re­place, not re­pair,” Larry added, not­ing the project is ex­pected to take six to eight weeks.

Be­cause of the age of the build­ing, the John­sons have been told they have no le­gal re­course with the orig­i­nal builder. In­surance ad­justers have told them the same thing, ad­vis­ing against fil­ing any claim.

“They told us if we filed a claim, they’d drop us,” Larry said, ex­plain­ing that’s why the church is shoul­der­ing the en­tire cost.

Larry said the con­gre­ga­tion has been in­formed ev­ery step of the way and has pledged to help fi­nan­cially.

“But we’re also reach­ing out to our com­mu­nity for help,” he said.

New Life Faith Cen­ter has a pres­ence in the area, help­ing with rent and food for ex­am­ple, he said.

“We’re in the com­mu­nity. We’re for the com­mu­nity,” Shawn added. “God is still teach­ing us. If we re­main faith­ful, he al­ways pro­vides.”

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