2011-09-10 / News

Pastor still interested in old church

By Scott Rawdon

UNION TOWNSHIP – Reverend Ray Sunkle said he’s still considering taking over the historic and currently empty Baptist Church building at the corner of Canyon and Beaver Run roads.

“I’m definitely interested,” he said Wednesday. Sunkle, of Newark’s Church of Christ in Christian Union, was directed to the American Baptist Churches of Ohio to discuss possibly taking over the property, which the Baptist Foundation currently owns.

In May, Larry Swain, executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio, attended a Union Township Trustees meeting to offer the trustees the abandoned church and possibly the active cemetery at the corner of Canyon and Beaver Run roads. Union Township Trustee Rick Black said the church and the cemetery are on the same parcel of property, and according to the Ohio Revised Code, a cemetery owner can abandon maintenance responsibility to the township if the owner is no longer able to maintain it. In other words, the township may have no legal choice but to take responsibility for the old church and the cemetery. Since the church has gravesites on its property, then the township would also be required to maintain the old church building.

Trustees, who have no township use for the old church, have been clear that given a choice they would rather not be in charge of it, and would rather see the church go to someone whom it would benefit.

Swain, who is currently filling in for a pastor at Newark’s Plymouth United Church, said he and a few other associates are interested in the Union Township church building, as opposed to speaking for a congregation. Right now, he’s not sure what the denomination would be were he to take possession of the building. “You can’t just open the doors and invite people in,” Sunkle said. There’s quite a bit of administrative work necessary before the first sermon, such as determining the church’s taxexempt status.

Sunkle said he’s waiting for information from the American Baptist Churches of Ohio, based in Granville.

In other township news:

• Thanks, but no thanks, trustees told the Coughlin Auto Group, which offered the township a former ODOT District 5 highway department pole barn from the corner of Ohio 79 and Ridgley Tract Road, where the auto group is building a Toyota Dealership. “It sounded real good,” said Trustee Rick Black, but in the end it would’ve cost more money to tear the barn down and rebuild it at another township location than the barn was worth. “I sort of had a feeling that would happen,” he said.

Previously, Trustee President John Slater said the township could really use the pole barn to house equipment, but the only stipulation was that the trustees must pay for moving the barn from the property. “We would need to find a practical way to do it,” he said. Unfortunately, no practical way was found. While trustees believed it was a generous offer, they were forced to decline.

• Trustees will need to wait a little longer before remodeling begins on the Union Township Complex. They were unable to sign contractor Bill Gulick’s contract when they met Monday night because Slater was absent due to illness and he had the contract. Even if trustees had the contract Monday night, Black said he and Trustee Jesse Ours couldn’t have approved it anyway, because Gulick works for Ours as an independent contractor and Ours is abstaining from voting.

“I think we all want to get this going,” said Black, who’s more than ready for work to begin.

• Ohio Township Association Executive Director Matthew DeTemple said there’s nothing wrong with scheduling trustees meetings on national holidays, legally or otherwise; Union Township held its meeting on Labor Day and has historically held meetings on some holidays that fall on the first or third Monday of the month, which is the trustees’ regular meeting cycle.

“It’s actually not that uncommon,” he said. DeTemple said rescheduling meetings requires public notification, which garners some expense. He disagreed with the notion that holding a public meeting on a holiday necessarily discourages people from attending.

“You might get some people there on a holiday who couldn’t make it there on a normal weekday,” he said.

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