by Colin Smith
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The bells will ring again.
That’s the theme and promise of a $1 million campaign to rebuild St. Jean Baptiste Church now underway.
The effort to replace the church, which burned down in June last year, was outlined by representatives of the St. Jean Baptiste Parish Council in a presentation to Morinville Town Council at its regular meeting Tuesday.
“This icon building was a beacon to all who came to our town,” stated parish council chair Noreen Radford.
Radford thanked the town for its support and presented Mayor Simon Boersma with a symbolic brick from the church.
Building committee vice-chair Joyce McKay noted that a survey of parish members and others from the community received 382 responses.
The participants indicated that they want to see the church rebuilding incorporate traditional elements. It should be about the same size, have a brick exterior, incorporates a steeple with a bell, and the interior should be decorated in yellow and red colours similar to the original.
The fundraising goal for the rebuilding is $1 million, with $233,967.34 raised so far.
“This is an amazing start,” said McKay. “But we will need much more.”
They will be holding Extravaganza, a major fundraising event on May 14 at the MCCC.
Progress of the church rebuilding can be followed on a master schedule on the St. Jean Baptiste Parish website, sjbp.ca.
Later in the meeting, council members approved a tax exemption for the property on which St. Jean Baptiste Church was located.
Under the Municipal Government Act, sites held by a religious body and used primarily for divine service, public worship or religious education are exempt from property tax.
Since the destruction of the church the land, owned by St. Paul Diocese, is considered vacant so it is subject to property tax.
The Municipal Government Act gives council the authority to pass a bylaw exempting non-profit organizations from paying tax on property on they own.
The administration recommended that council pass a bylaw providing a tax exemption for St. Paul Diocese for the property until the church is back in operation and exempt in the normal course of things.
In response to questions from councillors, Financial Services Manager Travis Nosko noted that the same procedure had been followed earlier with an Anglican and a Baptist church.
Taking into consideration that the bylaw only continues the same tax treatment as in the past, and for the sake of administrative efficiency, Council passed all three readings of the bylaw.
That followed the required unanimous consent by council to proceed to third reading of a bylaw at a meeting where the first and second reading has taken place.