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Newton Falls officials hope outbreak won’t sideline work

Eye entering church building in May

NEWTON FALLS — Village council this month approved purchase of the Newton Falls Congregational Church, and officials said they likely will be able to get into the church by June — being hopeful that the coronavirus outbreak will have eased.

Village manager David Lynch said the virus is not slowing down the earliest agreement with the church that officials can get inside the building in May to begin remodeling and other work.

He said it will likely take more than a month to make needed changes to the church, which will be used for village offices and meetings, including council.

“We hope that by the time we are moving in the situation with the coronavirus will not be as big an issue as it is currently,” Lynch said.

The village purchased the church at 612 W. Broad St. for $250,000 with the building valued at $900,000.

With the move, current offices for administrators, zoning and finances no longer will be used.

Councilman-at-Large Tarry Alberini said having offices in one location will help create a “one-stop shop.”

Resident Brian Kropp said he was aware another church had expressed interest in the building and questioned officials on the $250,000 expenditure.

Resident Catie Karl, who phoned into the recent council meeting, also advised of being careful with spending at the present time.

Mayor Kenneth Kline, a pastor with Newton Falls Assembly of God Church, said the village was not aware of any other group or person interested in the church building.

“We would not want to harm any church or group. We were not aware of anyone else bidding on the church. The village was the successful bidder,” Kline said.

Kline said he is in support of the purchase and noted a few minor repairs are needed — much less than needed for continual repairing and updating the financial / tax office building, which has aged.

He said the new location will provide good parking and much larger office space.

Lynch said the property requires sewer work and minor remodeling. Lynch said as part of the contract the church will cover costs for the sewer work.

Officials said a study will be done by Lynch to determine the best usage of no-longer-needed office space and buildings, which are getting older.

In other action at the March 16 meeting, council in a 4-1 vote held first reading to entering into a contract with Gardiner Services of Solon for the AMI water and electric meter replacement project

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said he has questions for the finance director about the project costs because he is against spending $4.1 million.

Finance director Anna Musson was unable to attend the meeting.

“I want more information on this. This is a lot of money. The money does not add up. I want rock solid answers before I vote,” Baryak said.

Attorney A. Joseph Fritz said second reading on the matter is not set until April 6, giving council time to make comments and get further information before final vote.

“That is why it is being given two readings to allow everyone to have time to review it and ask questions and express their opinions,” he said.

Alberini said the current meters need to be replaced because of their age.

“This is an investment for our future. A lot of the current meters are at the end of their life cycle,” he said.

First Ward Councilman Zachary Svette said Gardiner is a well-qualified company for the project.

Third Ward Councilman Lyle Waddell said the new meters will provide more accurate readings on water and electric usage.

Lynch said interest rates also are low and will help the project.

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