St. Jean Baptiste Parish addresses funding needs
Two new festivals pitched to town council
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012 03:16 pm
The mortar is crumbling, the bricks are unsettling and the roof is leaking. That’s what the sign for People for the Steeple reads beside the doors of St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville.
The old building has seen numerous restorations since it was built in 1907. The most recent saw a number of steel frames placed in the attic to stabilize the steeple. It had rocked in the wind and caused water leakage.
Stabilization brought some relief but that did not solve the problem. Stacked on the narrow staircase leading to the attic, plastic containers catch brown puddles of water. Walking past the walls causes small pieces of colour to drop to the floor.
“It’s better now than it was. If we are successful in raising the money and getting the (government) grant we will fix it in two summers,” said Simonne Chevalier, member of the parish.
On a regular Sunday morning the church is filled with the prayers from more than 100 families. If the deterioration continues, Chevalier said, the steeple would have to be removed before it falls onto the roof. Total restoration costs are estimated at $500,000.
Last week, members of the parish spoke before Morinville Town Council. Parish member Gib Boddez told councillors the church looked to raise $250,000 to apply for a federal matching-dollar grant to save the steeple, fix the brickwork and rotten shingles, place new colour on the walls and fill the cracks in the wall.
In order to preserve the site they need to raise $30,000 a week from now to Nov. 12, which is the application deadline for the grant. So far, the committee raised about $95,000. They asked council for support in case they fall short of their target.
Boddez said the church is not only a tourist attraction but also a symbol of the town.
“It’s the heart of our town. It’s the most prominent landmark in our town. It is who we are … and it connects us to the past,” he said.
“This structure has been standing for over 100 years and we want it to be there for another 100 years for our children and their children.”
Coun. Lisa Holmes asked if it was possible to take a loan from the Catholic Diocese in St. Paul. Boddez said the interest rate for such a loan would be six per cent.
The restoration project would not be the first of its kind. Over the past 30 years, the parish received a new cement foundation and windows, fresh paint on its walls, statues and a gold leaf trim.
Due to its historical and community landmark significance, Coun. Sheldon Fingler moved administration work with the parish to look at funding options to aid the restoration.
Council voted to return to the topic on Nov. 7.
Smith looking to bring more festivals into town
Hoping to bring fresh air into the local tourism scene, Paul Smith dreamed up not one but two new festivals to bring before Morinville’s town council last week.
The chair for the Morinville festival society asked the city for $100,000 to create the September festival and the January festival, as well as a year-round committee to support already-existing events.
The two new festivals would be an addition to the St. Jean Baptiste Festival.
The festival takes place on two days each year. Smith said tripling its impact would keep Morinville fresh in the minds of participants and continue its reputation as a leader in community, arts, festivals and entertainment.
“I think this starts to make a pretty awesome community, a community that’s celebrating all year long and that is far beyond what any small community does,” he said.
Smith added the events would allow the town to use the facilities from St. Jean Baptiste Festival more than once a year.
The total operating budget for the festivals is estimated at $160,000, providing everything from porta-potties to garbage service and rentals.
Smith said he expects Morinville businesses to put up $80,000. Morinville’s contribution of $100,000 would be split into $20,000 per event, $20,000 for the culture committee and an additional $20,000 to cover liabilities.
The committee already secured a five-year commitment from several local companies such as Champion Pet Foods, the Morinville News and Servus Credit Union.
As for the culture committee, Smith said it was already working to permanently double the size of the farmers’ market to 60 booths.