BARRY’S BAY – There is still some work to do, but for the most part, the entrance at St. Hedwig’s Church is complete.
When Father Chris Shalla, the parish priest, first came to the church 10 years ago, the front entrance was in disrepair. The cement was cracking and the wheelchair ramp was not up to code.
“We really pushed it to its limit,” Fr. Shalla laughed. “Last winter, we had boards on the stairs because they were falling apart.”
Despite some funds in the bank account from previous fundraisers, Fr. Shalla knew a loan from the diocese would be necessary to complete the renovation.
“The bishop, before he would approve a loan, wanted us to raise about half of the cost,” Fr. Shalla explained. “The problem is we didn’t know how much it would cost. We had no idea.
Primary plans were then drawn up, with the help of a local retired architect.
“He came up with the concept drawings. He did a lot of work. He measured the church and took dimensions and came up with the plan,” Fr. Shalla said.
There were strict zoning rules in place that had to be adhered to, making for some revisions to the original plan. An elevator was considered for the design, but Fr. Shalla said that would have been too costly.
“We decided against an elevator for a number of reasons, one being the cost,” Shalla said. “The other being the annual maintenance cost.”
The third reason, Fr. Shalla pointed out, is that in the event of an emergency, the elevator would have to adapt to an alternative power source. Even then, only a few people could be evacuated from the building at a time.
“A ramp was much more practical and economical,” Fr. Shalla pointed out. “We did try at the very beginning to keep costs low.”
Two ramps were chosen, one for the church entrance and another for the church hall, at the request of some parishioners.
Preliminary plans were discussed by the church’s property and finance committee, consisting of Matthew Baklinki, Mark Weston, Pat Pristanski, Laurie Sernoskie, Peter Pietruzko and Gerard Peplinskie.
An architect from Lakefield, Ontario, was hired to draw up professional plans, which were revealed to the public at a meeting in 2015.
Parishioners were invited to attend and comment on the design.
“Only one person showed up,” Fr. Shalla chuckled.
The plan included a ramp to the hall, which can be accessed underneath the front step of the church. This way, the church would save money by only requiring one excavation instead of two.
The main entrance features a roofed area, to shelter parishioners from the weather, including snow and ice dropping from the church.
“It’s protection against the elements,” Fr. Shalla explained. “A number of people like to remain behind after the mass to socialize. In inclement weather, it will provide protection. It will also provide an area where we can have refreshments at times.”
He added that back in 1975, when the church was renovated, a roof was considered for the entrance but it was turned down, likely due to costs.
But the committee today knew it was essential.
Get your January 13, 2016 edition of The Valley Gazette to read the full story.