The Des Moines Register
Friday April 19, 1996
Page 1M

Non-Sanctioned Meeting

But a leader of the burned-out church turns a deaf ear to arguments that it should be rebuilt rather than replaced.

By Michael McNarney, Register Staff Writer

STUART, IA -- The burned-out All Saints Church here can be restored economically, a panel of experts said at a town meeting Thursday night.

However, parish council Chairman Herb Dols said such claims are "wishful thinking."

The experts spoke to a crowd of about 100 at the Stuart Recreation Center. The meeting was organized by Project Restore, a group of Stuart residents who think the church -- badly damaged by an arsonist last fall -- should be restored.

The All Saints parish council has decided to build a new church on a new site using what can be salvaged of the current church, which is to be demolished.

"The decision has been made. We see no reason to go back on that," Dols said in an interview. He did not attend the meeting, which was not officially sanctioned by the parish.

Don Staley, a civil engineer with Reigstad and Associates Inc. in Des Moines, said the church could be restored with the $3.9 million insurance settlement.

"The real trick in doing a restoration project is deciding what the most important part is you want to save," he said. "You have plenty of money to do the job."

Staley was an engineer for the city of Des Moines and helped restore the Des Moines Water Works after the flood of 1993 before going to Reigstad, he said. The engineering firm does a good deal of church and other restoration work, he said.

Staley said he thinks an estimate by Neumann Brothers of Des Moines to restore the church is too high. Among the inflated line items, he said, is $1 million for rough carpentry and $500,000 for interior painting. He said those line items could be reduced to $500,000 and $100,00, respectively.

He also said some items were duplicated in the bid.

Staley said he wasn't criticizing Neumann's work; however, he said he thinks the estimate was assembled hurriedly and reflects costs associated with restoring the church to its exact state before Charles Willard burned it. Willard was convicted last month in the arson.

"I'm here to tell you that it can be done," Staley said. "The first thing the community should do is look for a second opinion."

CHURCH LEADER: Earlier decision is "a done deal"
Dols said he has not talked to Staley, nor does he plan to.

"Restoration can be a black hole. History and experience has shown that to be just that," he said.

Also supporting restoration was Judy Clark, the Page County auditor. The Page County Courthouse in Clarinda was heavily damaged by fire in 1991. Voters approved an $875,00 bond issue that, combined with the $1.5 million insurance settlement, was used to restore the courthouse.

She said she supported restoration of the courthouse from the beginning.

"They (the original builders) left it for us," she said. "We wanted to leave it for our grandchildren."

Dols stuck by the Neumann Brothers estimate.

"There are factors that couldn't be estimated," he said. "It (Staley's arguments) conflicts with other information provided to us."

Dols said many of the people at the meeting are not even All Saints members, and parishioners at the meeting constitute a minority of the parish as a whole, he said. "Itís a done deal."

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