By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Members of St. Jean Baptiste Parish brought the plight of Morinville’s oldest church and oldest historical building to Morinville Town Council Oct. 9. Parish member Gib Boddez updated councillors on just where the group was at in their quest to raise $250,000 by Nov. 12 in the hopes of obtaining a federal matching-dollar grant that would allow them to save the steeple of the historic church.
Boddez, in speaking on behalf of the parish, said since raising the plight of the steeple in the community there have been many supportive comments. “Comments that we’ve heard is that it’s the heart of our town. It’s the most prominent landmark in Morinville. It is who we are. It was the town logo for years and is still integrated in the new logo, and it connects us to the past,” Boddez said, adding the church is a prominent tourist attraction and has played host to the Community Christmas Celebration for the past 34 years.”
But in order to preserve what he and his fellow parishioners see as an historic icon, the parish group needs to raise $30,000 a week between now and the Nov. 12 grant application deadline. When the People for the Steeple campaign kicked off, the parish had $60,000 towards further restoration work. That number is now $95,000, putting the steeple initiative one third of the way towards the quarter million number needed.
Although the remaining amount is large, they are optimistic the community will support them in raising the money to preserve the historic building’s steeple.
“This structure has been standing for over 100 years,” Boddez told Council. “We want it to be there in its original majestic beauty for another hundred years for our children and their children.”
The alternative is an historic landmark without a major part of its history. “If deterioration continues, and should we have to remove the steeple, the skyline would be forever altered,” Boddez said.
Council throws out a few suggestions
Councillors had a number of questions for the group, some in the form of suggestions. Councillor Lisa Holmes asked if funding was available from the Catholic Diocese in St. Paul. Boddez confirmed a loan could be applied for which would need to be paid back. The interest rate is approximately 6 per cent per annum.
Other suggestions included seeing if insurance would cover the water damage to the steeple, something the parish has not yet considered, but will now explore with their insurance provider.
Council approves exploring support options
After hearing Boddez’ presentation on behalf of the parish and their plight to save the steeple, Councillor Sheldon Fingler made a motion to have Administration work with St. Jean Baptiste Parish to explore all possible funding options in the restoration of the church steeple.
Fingler said his motion was made due to the historic nature of the church and the significance of the steeple to Morinville’s history.
His motion was carried unanimously.