Church closes until spring Malone First Congregational unable to pay heating bills

A mesh netting wraps around the sides of the tower at the First Congregational Church in Malone. Blaine LaVoie/Malone Telegram

MALONE — First Congregational Church, 2 Clay St., has been temporarily shut down due to insufficient funds to heat the building.

Michael Maneely, chair of the church’s trustees, said the church closed earlier this month and will reopen around the Easter holiday when the weather is warmer.

“Over the month of December, it cost us over $2,000 just to heat the chapel,” Maneely said. “We can’t afford to keep it open.”

On Dec. 23, Lupini Construction Inc., a Utica-based firm, completed securing the church with mesh to catch any additional stones that could fall before repairs could be made.

Maneely said that the cost to secure the tower with mesh before repairs was $190,000.

“That’s not accounting for the cost to repair it. That kind of weighs us out of a very generous $200,000 donation the church had received two years ago to keep the church secure,” Maneely said. “We had sent out letters to all political representatives for Malone, and the only one we heard from was Sen. Stec.”

State Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, provided the church trustees with a list of contacts to apply for grants for the repairs.

A historical engineer had recently inspected the state of the building with mesh netting in order to provide information on how to temporarily repair the steeple.

A follow-up inspection done by the village code officer deemed the church’s sanctuary safe for the public once it reopens in the spring — thanks to the mesh netting, according to Maneely.

Maneely said that the wall facing Flanders Elementary School has recently begun to kick out. A higher cost estimate is expected.

“We don’t have the funding coming in to offset the cost of construction,” Maneely said. “We are at a standstill.”

In August, the church’s tower had become structurally unsound as debris had fallen from a wall of the tower and damaged the church’s roof neighboring the base of the tower.

Village Code Enforcement Officer Brian Lamondie deemed surrounding areas of the tower unsafe shortly thereafter. Services were only allowed to be held in the chapel as the nearby sidewalks, the church’s tower entrance and sanctuary were off limits to the public.

In the following month, Malone village trustees met to discuss how to move forward with repairs and agreed to waive permit fees necessary to begin repairs.

“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,” Lamondie said at the time.

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

First Congregational Church was constructed in 1883, making it the third building to be constructed on the Clay Street site, according to the church’s website.

The church is also on the National Register of Historic Places, which means that it is considered worthy of preservation for historical importance. Properties may qualify for tax incentives obtained from the total value of expenses sustained in preserving the property, according to the register’s website.

Maneely said the church plans to apply for the National Register benefits.

Maneely said his term as church trustee will end in April and that he is unsure of the church’s future.

“I am still going to be there but I will not have any authority to help out the situation,” Maneely said. “In a couple months we will have a local construction company that has done work in Chateaugay, Ogdensburg and Lake Placid come in and give us a pre-construction cost estimate.”

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