City officials scheduled to meet with new owners of church

GLOVERSVILLE – City officials are expected to meet with the group that still holds the deed to the former First Methodist Church in Bleecker Square at the next meeting of the Common Council on Jan. 26.

During the Jan. 12 Council meeting, Fire Chief Tom Groff said the owners of the church located at 7 Elm St. were supposed to come to the Jan. 12 council meeting to speak with the council, but had to delay because of illness.

Groff said he was recently inside the 1869 building, after being allowed access by the owners, and found it to be in worse shape than he initially thought. Groff encouraged the council members to walk through the church themselves to get their own perspective before meeting with the owners.

“I have some pictures of what they actually did when they took out the windows,” Groff said. “I think before you hear this guy speak you may want to see what kind of condition the church is in, just so you’ve got that in the back of your head.”

Groff said damage was done on the inside of the church when the windows were removed.

“It looks like a church with boarded up windows, but when you go inside, some people have been in there, there is a lot of damage in there. They didn’t just remove the glass,” Groff said. “They were in there on a Friday to Saturday afternoon [years ago] and got all those windows out of there and then came on the following Thursday and asked for permission to take them out.”

Building Inspector Brandon Myers, who toured the facility with Groff and Historic Preservation Board member John Blackmon, said that when the windows were removed from the building, the framing was destroyed in the process, exposing the bricks in many places.

“The windows were removed very aggressively,” Myers said. “The framing looks like it was hacked out with a saw.”

In addition, Myers said it appear that people have gotten inside the building and scattered around papers, books and other trash.

Myers said that structurally, the building is in good condition, although there are some storm drainage issues that need to be addressed. He said there is no damage to the walls or ceiling and other items inside the church appear to have been left intact.

In 2011, the church was given three conditional discharges and one year to pay $60,000 in fines after stained-glass windows and steeple clocks were removed from the church without the Historic Preservation Review Board’s consent. The $60,000 is broken up into five $12,000 fines – one for each of the four facades of the building and one for the steeple, where the clocks were removed.

Myers said those fines have still not been paid as of Friday.

The Church of God of Prophecy Northeast Region, based in Albany, has owned the Bleecker Square Church since 2000, when it was purchased for $60,000, according to tax map data. The structure’s tax-exempt status was removed in 2009 because it no longer is used as a congregational meeting place.

The Church of God of Prophecy still owns the facility, although it was foreclosed upon for failure to pay taxes in 2013.

According to the Fulton County Treasurer’s Office, $25,988 is owed in back taxes on the property as of this month. The property is still listed as owned by the Church of God of Prophecy.

Fulton County Treasurer Terry Blodgett said Friday that the county has not yet taken the deed to property due to concerns about liability. Blodgett said that there have been groups that are interested in taking over the church and said they have plans for the property, but nothing has officially gone through at this point.

Blodgett said once a buyer for the property does come forward, the county will file the necessary paperwork to obtain the deed and then have it transferred to a new owner.

“I feel confident one of these groups will be asking for [the building],” he said.

The council decided against taking ownership of the church in Feb. 2015, after Fulton County officials looked at selling the church to the city for $305. The council declined ownership over issues concerning liability and potential maintenance costs.

Kerry Minor covers Gloversville. She can be reached at [email protected].

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