The Royalton Town Board voted down a resolution to enter into a shared services agreement with the Town of Hartland for the takeover of the Universalist Church, located in the village of Middleport.
In January, members of the Universalist Church offered the 200-year-old cobblestone building, which sits in the Royalton half of Middleport, to the municipalities due to their inability to maintain it any longer.
High hopes were shared in the possibility of creating a community center for both towns and the village to use, but with a 3-2 vote against the resolution in Royalton, the planning of a community center was quickly put to rest.
The project raised cost concerns for Royalton and whether the town would be able to afford it. That ultimately led to several board members voting nay.
Board member Bradley Rehwaldt, who voted against the resolution, said he the costs involved in putting on a new roof and furnace in the church within a five-year time span would not be in the benefit of the town.
Town Board member Jim Budde, who also voted no to the resolution, felt that with the associated costs to the church, the project would continue to take a lot of the town’s money over the years in order to maintain the building.
The cost for the upkeep of the building is under $10,000, which would be divided between the two or three entities, according to Supervisor Jennifer Bieber, if all three municipals were to take on the project. However, that total did not include the improvements that would have to be made to the building.
Improvements that would have to be made on the building over the first few years would include painting, putting in new windows, gutting the interior of the building, installing a new roof and replacing the early 2000’s furnace. Additional costs of the building includes basic maintenance such as heating, cooling and electric.
Bieber and Hartland Supervisor Ross Annable brainstormed several ideas in order to finance the church as a community center. Some of those options included using existing seed money, casino revenue and a number of grant donors, such as Niagara Greenway and historical renovation grants.
However, Budde felt that so much more that could be done with the use of the casino revenue and town money that would would benefit the community.
In addition, Budde felt that with a private buyer’s interest in the church, the government should work more towards helping the individual rather than competing with them.
“We should be here to help out this private person,” Budde said. “This individual who has shown his interest should have a full crack at it.”
However, Budde also said that even if there wasn’t a private buyer interested in the church, he still would have voted against the resolution due to the high dollar amount needed and the unknowns of the project.
Bieber, who voted in favor of the project, said the board never got to the point where they could find out what could be covered in grants due to the inability to obtain the church.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work,” Annable said. “I thought it was a great project, but we needed a three-way municipal cooperation in order to make it happen and with two legs not wanting to do it, there is not much we can do about it.”
However, the building will not see its end nor will it stand vacant. The church is working to move forward with anyone willing to take the keys, including private buyer Brian Yaiser of “Y me” ministry.
“Y me” ministry is an independent, non-profit Christian ministry that produces benefit concerts open to the general public. They have organized over 18 concerts and raised more that $100,000 for local non-for-profit groups.
Annable speculated that Yaiser will use the church as a sort of venue for these benefit concerts. However, Yaiser was unable to comment due to travel.
Contact reporter Rachel Fuerschbach at 439-9222, ext. 6246.