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Conway Church asks for $37,000 in trust funds for renovations

Recorder file/Paul Franz
The United Congregational Church has asked the Conway Selectboard for $37,000 to renovate its bathrooms and install a ramp.

Recorder file/Paul Franz The United Congregational Church has asked the Conway Selectboard for $37,000 to renovate its bathrooms and install a ramp.

CONWAY — The United Congregational Church has asked the Selectboard for $37,000 out of the M and M Germain Trust Fund.

For $15,000, the historic church off Whately Road would renovate its bathrooms and for $22,000 it would install a ramp.

The proposals tie in with one of the trust fund’s purposes — to help pay for the rehabilitation of needy handicapped children. The other purpose is college scholarships.

The bathroom improvements are required under state law. While the ramp is optional, the church leaders are committed to putting in a ramp for church members, said Rev. Candice Ashenden.

Over the years, much of the Germain Trust money has gone to support student scholarships — about $30,000 each year.

This year, however, the Selectboard is seeing a flurry of proposals for handicapped-access improvement projects. The Selectboard has discretion over spending of the trust.

The church’s request is the second one this year.

The Conway Swimming Pool Committee Inc. asked for and was promised $235,000 in April to make the swimming hole off Whately Road fully accessible.

The pool volunteers’ request motivated the church to make a similar one.

“We weren’t aware of the trust fund or that it applied to handicapped accessibility until the pool committee applied for it,” said Ashenden. “We feel our mission was similar. We inquired whether we’d be a candidate and were told we were.”

At this time, Town Administrator Amanda Majewski-Winn said the town is determining the new trust value. The town recently took out $30,000 for college scholarships as well.

But as of Dec. 31, 2012, the trust was valued at $790,585 with an expendable balance of $381,648.

The decision is not one the Selectboard is taking lightly considering it has already dipped into the fund for the pool.

“I felt over many years all the money went to scholarships,” said Selectboard member Rick Bean. “I thought this was a great time to spend for (handicapped-acces) improvements. The ($235,000 for the pool project) is a good chunk of change. Now I feel we have to be careful.”

As trustees, Bean said, the board has to look at all projects.

Before the Selectboard makes its decision, Chairman John O’Rourke said it will review the church plans and have the town’s lawyer review the proposal. The church will have its answer within a month.

Church leaders are still hoping for a September opening, in which Sunday services can be brought back from the grammar school.

A “no” from the Selectboard could delay a church opening, however.

The church can only open if it updates its bathroom as required by state law.

“(The trust funds) would help significantly,” said Ashenden.

If the church doesn’t get the trust money, it will continue to rely on private donations.

One major fundraiser the church is having is brick donations for a memorial walkway on the north side of the church. For $100, people can have a brick engraved in the walkway. All the money goes to support the renovations.

The church started off with $350,000 from its endowment fund, using half of the fund money. But the total repair costs have climbed to $490,000 due to what Ashenden calls “unforeseen circumstances.”

For example, the church did not predict it would need a grease trap in the kitchen. When contractors cracked into the floor to install one, they discovered rock ledge below. The hard surface required heavy-duty equipment and upped the price tag.

The church has been closed since November 2011 due to water leaks, damage and mold buildup brought on by Tropical Storm Irene.

Since that time, the church added a small roof extension to prevent snow from piling up along the edge of the building, and copper roof flashing.

It also replaced the tip of the steeple with copper to prevent water leakage and restore it to its historical character. To carry rain water away from the building, the church graded along the lawn and window wells.

The inside work will likely be finished this month. It involves replacement of walls, plumbing and electrical components.

The church has paid for most repairs with its endowment money and private donations.

In May 2012, townspeople also approved $100,000 in community preservation fund money for the church. Like the church, the pool committee received $123,000 in property tax-funded CPA money that year as well.

One of the biggest setbacks to fundraising is the church building’s closure.

The church does not have a facility to hold a fundraising event. Until this year, the church has held pancake breakfasts and an annual fair that nets $1,000.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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