CROWN POINT — Clearing out and cleaning up the old Trinity Lutheran Church is a work in progress.
And those close to the project can't definitively say when the building will be clear for a structural engineer to assess if the old church, built in 1886, is structurally sound.
"I really couldn't give you a timeline on it because at this point, we're waiting on the laborers that are working in the building, and I don't know what their schedule is," Zack Bryan, a board member of the 1886 Church Foundation Corp., the nonprofit that owns and is aiming to restore the church, told The Times Wednesday.
Bryan, who also is an at-large councilman, said a lot of work completed at the church thus far has been contained to the building's exterior.
Once the inside is cleared out, Bryan said a structural engineer will be able to assess the integrity of the structure. He noted an engineer, a roofer and "numerous other tradespeople," have previously looked at the building.
The foundation acquired the property at 400 E. North St. in October 2019, according to the Lake County assessor's office. Bryan said then the foundation initially hoped the cleanup would take six months.
During a Wednesday Crown Point Board of Works meeting, Assistant City Attorney Alex Kutanovski said a lot of the church's exterior has been cleaned up.
Kutanovski said it is his understanding that "tens-of-tons" of metal have been removed from inside of the church, with scrappers still working to remove metal.
"They're waiting on the confirmation from the structural engineer on his inspection date," Kutanovski said. "They got to get it all cleaned out in the interior before he can get inside."
No timeline concerning
Paige Donaldson, who lives adjacent to the church and has spoken up against a lack of timeline for the project, repeated her concerns to the board Wednesday.
"As far as the status report that was provided today, it's something I think I would call a classic oxymoron. We're waiting on a confirmation date for the engineering inspection, but we're not yet ready to schedule it because the building's not yet cleaned out," Donaldson said.
"That's not a status report. That's the same thing that was said at the last meeting."
Donaldson then referenced a June 25, 2021, property inspection report completed by the city's building inspector, Brad Wentz, which shows the building in violation of various city and state ordinances.
"The building is likely to partially or completely collapse. There were two different violations cited in that report pertaining to that specific language," Donaldson said. "... The city is violating its own municipal ordinance."
The church, previously owned by Steve Greer, caught fire in October 2018. It was just one property once owned by Greer left in disrepair following a fire.
Earlier this year, a 19th-century home at 812 E. Monitor St., owned by Greer, caught fire, leading the city to deem the residence unsafe and promising to raze the structure if Greer didn't take action on his own.
Demolition of the building was set to begin July 20, but an issue with contractor scheduling and utility services being disconnected delayed the project. Kutanovski said the work is now set to begin Monday.
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