By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY — The final vote on a $75,000 appropriation to help restore the historic Second Baptist Church building is slated to be taken by the New Albany City Council Thursday.
After being approved on first and second ballots, the final reading on the appropriation has been tabled since October. Some city officials requested that an easement be put in place so that New Albany can recoup its interests if the church is ever sold.
City Attorney Stan Robison confirmed Tuesday that an easement has been filed so that the city would have first rights on the church steeple if it’s replaced through the project.
Second Baptist Rev. LeRoy Marshall had said in October that he would have to confer with his congregation before agreeing to an easement over the church property with the city.
Messages left for Marshall seeking comment for this story hadn’t been returned as of press time, but Robison said the church had agreed to the easement.
As estimated by the local firm Michell Timperman Ritz Architects, the cost to repair what has been known as the Town Clock Church could be as much as $403,500.
The project would entail repairing masonry, refurbishing windows and replicating the original steeple of the church, which is located at 300 E. Main St.
Fundraising efforts began last year for the project, and organizations such as the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County, the Floyd County Historical Society and Develop New Albany have contributed to the cause.
Councilman John Gonder is the sponsor of the $75,000 appropriation, and said due to the church’s role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, the building should be maintained and treasured as a part of New Albany’s legacy.
He added more money will have to roll-in to support the rehabilitation of the structure, as the first phase of the project including replication of the original steeple and repair of architectural woodwork is estimated to cost $217,500.
“What we’re putting in is a significant amount, but it’s not enough to get the job done,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting out and talking to the citizens and getting them involved in seeing the value of this.”
The Horseshoe Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the project.
Councilman Scott Blair opposed the measure on initial ballots because he said he wanted more guarantees that the city’s money would be matched by other entities.
The $75,000 public grant should serve as a foundation for the project with an assurance that enough funds can be raised to see the rehabilitation finished as planned, Blair said.
Councilman Greg Phipps was the other member of the body to vote against the appropriation on initial ballots. Phipps said he has “strong feelings of separation of church and state” and that the project mixed a religious institution with public funding.
Obviously the church would benefit from having a restored building, but the funding is more about saving an iconic symbol in New Albany than it is to back a religious effort, Gonder said this week.
“All we’re hoping to save is the bricks and the mortar that make up that church building, not the church itself,” he said.
The appropriation is the only measure slated for a vote Thursday. There are some remaining board appointments to be made by Council President Pat McLaughlin.
The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the third-floor Assembly Room of the City-County Building.