Historic Belton church

The volunteer organization hoping to rehabilitate the 139-year-old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church offered an optimistic update to the Belton City Council this week.

FME News Service | FILE

BELTON — The volunteer organization hoping to rehabilitate the 139-year-old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church offered an optimistic update for a building in jeopardy of being bulldozed because of safety concerns.

At a Belton City Council meeting this week, Salado attorney and 1874 Church Committee Chairman Michael Cooper said the group so far has raised more than $18,000 toward the next phase of the rehabilitation at 401 N. Wall St., a building added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

Volunteers hope to eventually open the building as a resource center for genealogy and Bell County history, perhaps a home for public library archives.

Having stabilized the building, the group next hopes to fund a slab foundation for the building, and then address the rooftop, Cooper said.

“We believe this building can be saved in a manner which the Council and the (city) of Belton can be proud of,” he said.

The next phase, including foundation and roof work, is projected to cost about $25,000, Cooper said.

Councilman David K. Leigh said he applauded the group for having a detailed plan, something missing from past updates.

“This is a much more itemized than ‘We want to have a plan,’” Leigh said. “This sounds like a plan.”

But he questioned Cooper’s $25,000 cost estimate for the work involved with the overhaul of the roof and foundation.

“I’m not saying it’s not possible,” he said. “I’m just saying it’s an underestimate.”

Cooper said the group hired an architect who plans to provide a more detailed cost estimate within the next 90 days.

Mayor Pro Tem Marion Grayson said she was “encouraged” by the update, which showed the group is making progress.

“I know they’ve been working hard,” Grayson said, pointing to the group’s growing bank account and contacts. “I think they’re on the right track. Nothing happens overnight.”

The council began requesting six-month updates from the committee in 2011, and has so far allowed the group time to secure the funding. Years ago, the building’s condition was a “community safety issue,” but that has changed, Mayor Jim Covington said.

“I think we have gotten to the point where we have a building that is more secure and not as dangerous as it was,” Covington said, who along with Leigh believed six-month updates were no longer necessary, but a conclusion was.

“Work with (city) staff and let’s either get it done or let’s tear it down. One or the other,” Covington said.

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