By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY — With the New Albany City Council and Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County having committed financially to the project, efforts are under way to form a board of directors to oversee private fundraising and long-term planning for the Second Baptist Church refurbishment.
Historically known as the Town Clock Church, the building off Main Street served as a connection along the Underground Railroad route during the Civil War.
A study last year estimated about $400,000 in repairs are needed to restore the church building in a manner that would resemble its 19th-Century appearance.
The first phase of the project — which would include replicating the sizable steeple that once topped the building — has been gauged at $217,500, and the city council approved $75,000 toward the effort last week.
The Horseshoe Foundation also OK’d a $25,000 grant for the rehabilitation, and now members are being sought for the Friends of the Town Clock Church, Inc. nonprofit group.
Among its roles, the group would be charged with raising funds, planning for the future of the building and providing resources so that the historic undercroft of the church is notably tied in the community to the Underground Railroad.
The group, as proposed, would remain formed indefinitely to oversee maintenance and upkeep of the church, according to Jerry Finn, one of the volunteers assisting with the project.
“As long as the church is around we’d like to have this group around,” he said.
Additionally, a board of directors will be formed in the coming weeks to serve as the administrative wing of the Friends of the Town Clock Church.
Finn said the board will likely consist of nine members, establish its own bylaws and elect leaders including a chair.
A restoration committee will also be created to manage the construction work.
“There will be a restoration committee, but the board itself will be the governing body to oversee it, but they probably won’t deal with [the construction] on a day-to-day basis like the committee,” Finn said.
City Councilman Bob Caesar stressed last week that leadership needed to be established for the project, though he voted in favor of the appropriation and said the restoration is warranted.
“This is truly one of the buildings that needs to be on the National Historic Register,” he said.
The city’s $75,000 appropriation will come from Economic Development Income Tax funds, and will not be released until the money is matched by other donations to the effort.
Finn said fundraising for the project will focus on three areas: Immediate cash to restore the steeple and the rest of the building, ongoing fundraising for maintenance and long-term endowment contributions.
The New Albany Urban Enterprise Zone Association was chosen to hold the city’s $75,000 contribution in a tax-exempt fund until matching contributions are raised.
Finn said the city’s money will likely never be transferred to the Friends of the Town Clock Church account, but that the UEZ will be sent construction bills once the work ensues and the terms of the agreement are met.
Though very much in its infancy stage, Finn said the first phase of work has already begun at the church, as congregation members have started cleaning the clock tower area.
The board of directors should begin meeting within the coming weeks, and there will likely be a gathering in the spring for those that have joined Friends of the Town Clock Church.
While the board hasn’t been formed, Finn said the sentiment among the volunteers working on the project is that someone in a leadership role at Second Baptist Church should be on the body.
“We want to make sure there’s good communication between the church and this group,” he said.
Membership contribution levels will be determined, as Finn said there will be categories for individuals, families and larger donations.
For more information, contact Finn at 812-945-4332.