By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A $500,000 restoration project for St. Jean Baptiste Church is soon to be underway now that 100 feet of scaffolding has risen from the pavement to the top of the historic church. The St. Jean Baptiste Parish received a $250,000 Western Diversification Grant Mar. 12, the maximum matching dollars available for the $343,538.97 raised in the community last fall.
While fundraising provided the foundation for the project to go forward, an Edmonton-based scaffolding company provided the foundation upon which the actual work will be done. Prairie Gold Scaffolding Ltd., owned by brothers George and Ben Johnson, spent the past week erecting the scaffolding workers will use to restore the church.
Prairie Gold’s co-owner George Johnson said while the job was straight forward, the opportunity was unique. “For us this is a very interesting build because the church is of such historical nature,” Johnson said. “How many times do you get to go up and work on something like this? With scaffolding we are always in a different location every single day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on a job site like this.”
Johnson said a crew of approximately eight were used to assemble the scaffolding, four scaffold builders and another four labourers who transported materials up the scaffolding to be assembled.
With the approximately 30,000 pounds of scaffolding now erected, Delnor Construction will now examine what needs to be done. “We have to do a lot of investigation to make sure the wood framing is up to par,” said Delnor Construction Project Superintendent Don Ferguson, adding the inside of the belfry will be examined to see just how solid it is. Additionally, shingles will be removed on the parts of the roof surrounding the steeple so the substrate can be checked for deterioration.
Wind and age have allowed the steeple to shift over the years, allowing moisture to seep into the steeple and surrounding roof. The St. Jean Baptiste Parish spent about $120,000 a couple years prior to the recent fundraising initiative. That money was used to stabilizing the steeple to prevent further damage.
Ferguson said a lot of the brick around the building would have to be repointed, but because of the church’s historical standing with the province, extreme care must be taken on any of the brickwork that has to be taken apart. “If we do that, they all have to be numbered and they all have to go in exactly the same place where they were.”
The company is hoping to have the restoration project completed by August or September.
Above: Prairie Gold Scaffolding workers erect a scaffold surrounding Morinville’s St. Jean Baptiste Church. The scaffolding will allow workers to commence the restoration project.