November 29, 2021

Homer church repair ballot on hold

Kevin Conlon/city editor

The village of Homer is considering its options after bids came in higher than expected for renovations to the former church on the Village Green that the village purchased.

The village of Homer is delaying a referendum asking residents to allow the village to borrow a $1 million bond to fix structural problems with the Little White Church.

The village voted unanimously Tuesday evening to pay $10,000 to Keystone Associates of Binghamton to seek a grant for a stormwater harvesting system. “That could get us about $800,000, if we get it,” Mayor

Darren “Hal” McCabe said. “They have a pretty good track record of getting these things funded.”

The grant would be able to cover the stormwater system and a new roof. But McCabe said the grant could also fund repairs to the church’s foundation because some of its problems were caused by stormwater.

“I think it’s worth the risk,” McCabe said. The church, built in 1832, is the oldest structure on the Village Green.

The village board had voted earlier this month to schedule a spring referendum to ask voters about issuing a bond to cover all the expenses for fixing the church as a final option. That referendum is now on hold, pending success — or failure — of Keystone Associates, McCabe said.

The suggestion to bond came 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, such as fixing the roof and repairing the interior, remain. Those bids have come in between $295,000 and $387,000.

The state let the village take 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.

Village Clerk Dan Egnor said the application for the Keystone Associate grant must be submitted Feb. 12.

Deputy Mayor Patrick Clune said architect Randy Crawford suggested seeking other state grants such as the Empire State Economic Development Fund grant to help cover costs.

“Randy was saying we have more time than we think we have,” Clune said. “We don’t have multiple years, but we’ve got some time.”

Clune said some of the grants provide up to $500,000. He suggested the village look at stacking the grants, if it can, to get all the work done.