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Trustees hire architect to rework former church

UNION TOWNSHIP – Work on reconfiguring the interior of Union Township’s $310,000 former church is on hold.

A change of use permit is required first from Licking County. “We were completely surprised,” said Trustee Rick Black. He said trustees were unaware they needed a change of use permit to convert the building from an “assembly use” – it was formerly the Licking Baptist Church – to a business use.

“We have to deal with it,” said Black. He’s not sure how long it will take to obtain the permit, but Black said township government expects residents and businesses to comply with all zoning and permit requirements and the township itself is no exception.

In the meantime, Black said trustees hired JBA Architects of Newark to create some interior design drawings and generate a cost analysis for the work. “We’re trying to get some of (the complex) set up for the police department,” he said. “That’s the main focus now.”

“A lot of what’s been done here has been mainly cosmetic,” said Trustee President John Slater Monday night. “Now it’s time to get a builder and a permit.” While it sounds like a major undertaking, Slater said actual interior renovation may take less than a month after JBA Architects helps trustees complete a design.

Township Administrator Paula Greene said retaining JBA costs roughly $3,000. Slater said code requires trustees to get a building permit as soon as changes are made to a building’s electrical system. He said JBA would design the interior layout according to trustees’ wishes, and then make sure it meets all code specifications. “We want to make sure we have our ducks in a row,” he said.

“We’re not going to do too much,” said JBA Architects Vice President Greg Cotterman. He said plans are to use the right side of the building for the Union Township Police Department, which will require two secure doors and a “pass through” window to keep the one- officer department separated from the public. Trustees also want to create a small evidence room. So, Cotterman said total plans call for three doors, the window, and the evidence room.

In other township news:

• Trustees opted not to try to seek bids again for the steeple that has been removed from the former church. Trustees originally set a $500 minimum bid for the steeple, but there were no takers.

Greene said trustees had the option of placing it out to bid again with a minimum bid of $220 – to cover the cost of advertising the bids – or simply to donate the steeple to a church. They opted for the latter. Greene said she would consult Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Austin Lecklider about the donation process.

Black said he believes two churches are interested in receiving the steeple as a donation, but he’s not sure which churches specifically because he’s only dealt with individuals.

• Slater said the railroad crossings at Canyon Road and particularly Union Station Road are in terrible shape. “We have a valid concern,” he said, describing the Union Station crossing as a hazard. “The trains are causing the damage, not the traffic,” said Slater. He said the Union Station crossing was supposed be fixed last October. Licking County maintains Union Station Road and the CSX Railway is responsible for the crossing. Slater hoped to convince the county to upgrade the rough crossing.

• Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly told the trustees the Hebron Fire Department is seeking proposals and statements of qualifications from architectural firms who will vie to help the department expand its station. Statements are due March 14. “We hope to get back several proposals,” he said to the trustees. “We’d like to get something going this summer.”

Weekly said the Hebron Fire Station needs an additional equipment bay, more and better living quarters for personnel, and a new kitchen. It’s needed the upgrades for a while. “We’ve been talking about this for the last 10 years,” he said.

The project has faced several obstacles including the sluggish economy and contract disputes with Union Township. Weekly hopes the time is finally right to get it done.

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