Second Stage volunteers have continued dialogue with the Amherst Board of Supervisors since the inaugural Second Stage season ended with the Holiday Market in December 2013. However, two recent events have transpired to threaten of the historic former Amherst Baptist Church with demolition.
1. Social Services needs more space
First came the news that the county’s Department of Social Services is severely over-crowded. You can read more about Social Services need for space on the New Era Progress website.
2. Recent heavy weather has caused minor damage to the Church
Then, only a week or two later, the county was deluged with three days of heavy rain, and eighteen inches of snow. The result is that water and snow sat on the flat roofs of the former church. Since the building has been mothballed for the past eight years, leaks in the roof membrane have gone unnoticed and as the snow melted it seeped into the building and released a piece of sheet rock in the ladies restroom and hall.
This news reached the supervisors at the same meeting Second Stage representatives were seeking approval of three-year use of the building on a year-round basis. After much discussion the matter was tabled until the building inspector and building official toured the building and submitted a report to the board. That report will be submitted to the supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, March 4, 1:00 p.m.
The report is extensive and lists all the issues that will have to be addressed for the building to be whole again. Many of the items on the list are obvious, such as the lack of a handicap accessible restroom and an elevator or lift to reach the basement or second story, and fascia and cornice boards that need to be replaced. At first glance, the list appears daunting and the twenty-seven pages of pictures that accompanies the three page report can be scary, but many of the issues are fairly minor. Second Stage had a successful season last year and the County Department of Recreation and Parks continues to use the building, as it has since the county acquired the facility.
The building is structurally sound
However, the truth is plainly stated in the report summary:
“Overall the building is structurally sound, but there is a lot that needs to be done to make it usable…the majority of the problems come from the building not being occupied. A building just sitting goes down a lot faster than one that is occupied. While a building is occupied it goes through normal heating and cooling cycles which helps with moisture problems and also has people in it to address maintenance issues as they present themselves. If we [the county] continue to own the building we cannot leave it like it is or it will soon not be worth salvaging.”
Majority of Supervisors now want to demolish the historic church
At a recent board of supervisors work session it appeared that four of the five supervisors are inclined toward demolition of this historic building in the heart of the Town of Amherst. (This work session occurred before the building inspector’s report reached their hands.) To be fair, the supervisors have some very tough decisions facing them – they own a building that is not being maintained and their social services department is not able to do its job in the space it currently occupies. The County has determined that the church is not suited to the needs of the Department of Social Services, but they are considering demolishing the church in order to put up a pre-engineered building. We think the historic building remains a significant structure that connects the community to its past. The county owns other land that can be developed adjacent to the present county administration building.
How you can help save this town landmark
Now more than ever the former Amherst Baptist Church is facing a demolition sentence. Now more than ever that lovely building needs your help. Will you ...
Please take a moment to answer our three-question survey, call your supervisor, or write Second Stage an email offering your suggestions and offers to help.
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