Code Officials Review Church Repair Plan

Wheeling building codes officials are reviewing repair plans for a Center Wheeling church roof that collapsed last year.

The old Second Presbyterian Church building’s roof collapsed due to structural issues. A private engineer hired by the building’s owner, Near Earth Object Foundation, discovered that decades ago three of the roof’s trusses were cut and modified to allow the hanging of a chandelier in the sanctuary. Because of this roof-raising work, the ceiling and roof failed about 50 years later.

Wilson said his department must determine whether plans to fix the church meet building codes. He noted there is not a predetermined time for the work to be completed.

”Hopefully the sooner, the better,” Wilson said.

Structurally, he noted, the building is fine but it still needs fixed.

“I think it’s safe. It’s secure,” Wilson said, noting the sidewalk beside the building remains blocked for the safety of pedestrians. Vehicles still are allowed to park beside it. He said it should be OK for upcoming Christmas parade participants to line up in the building’s vicinity.

One of the building’s owners, Richard Pollack, said engineering plans were submitted to the city Nov. 4, and the codes department recently asked for additional information. When the plans are approved, he and co-owner Robert Strong have three months to complete construction, according to the city’s code rules. He said they would like to get the roof fixed as soon as possible. Pollack said they are applying for state historical grants for the project because they want not only to fix the roof, but to restore the 1848 building to its Civil War-era style.

“We’ve been working with city officials the whole time,” Pollack said. “The work will be extensive – it’s not going to be cheap.”

The building, located at 2100 Market St., was not occupied when the collapse occurred at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 22, 2011. No one was injured.

Before the collapse, the Near Earth Object Foundation, an educational nonprofit group, had owned the building for about three years and were still surveying what work needed to be done to bring the building up to code. They plan on using the building as the home address for the foundation. They had not been inside the building for a while when the collapse occurred.

“As much as possible, we want to restore the building based on its historic nature,” he said.