October 23, 2021

Board to set ballot on whether to bond for church repairs

Homer votes for referendum

A well-fed orange tabby cat sheltered Tuesday on a porch between the Little White Church and parsonage. The aging church has been a topic of conversation among Homer village board members and residents for months.

On the north side of the church, wooden clapboards lay on the ground, revealing rot. Crumbled skim coating revealed a stone foundation. The front steps were crumbled, too, and panes of broken glass were boarded over.

The Homer village board has been pushing to fix the church, but has come up short on repair plans after estimates came back too high. The board’s latest option for fixing the church: Take out a bond.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to schedule a referendum for village residents to vote on taking out the bond.

“I think we’re looking at somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million,” said Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe, noting it would likely be closer to the $1 million mark.

A date for the referendum hasn’t been set, but Trustee Tim Daley said the Board of Elections must have 45 days’ notice.

McCabe said he’s looking to have the vote around the end of March.

The suggestion to bond comes after the village received a $128,000 estimate to repair the foundation and stabilize one of the walls from Woodford Brothers, Inc. of Tully. The $128,000 estimate is only a fraction of the cost needed to stabilize the church so it can be used again. Other issues like fixing the roof and repairing the interior remain as well. Those bids have come in between $295,000 and $387,000.

The state approved the Homer village taking ownership of the building in 2018 at no cost from the PCA Church New Hope Presbyterian of Vestal, with a $1, 99-year lease for the land with the First Religious Society of Homer.

It plans to turn the church into the Little White Church Community Center to be used for events, plays or even weddings, with a goal of eventually handing ownership over to a nonprofit.

McCabe also said he’s gotten inquiries regarding work at the church by local contractors.

“People that are interested in doing something, it’s pretty much pro bono,” McCabe said.

The board also voted, 3-0, to approve its 2021-2022 budget after hearing no comments during a public hearing.

Trustees Ed Finkbeiner and Daley were absent for the vote.