OLL Assesses Fire Damage, Repair Costs


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Our Lady Of The Lake is letting parishioners know that it will be costly to repair the damage done to the church in the April 4 fire.

Father Peter Wehrle, the church’s pastor, is saying that it has gotten a $40,000 estimate for the damage done to the pews and a $500,000 estimate on repairs to the organ. He said that the company called in to look at the damage to the pews “determined that they cannot just be sanded down and repaired, but that they will need to be replaced.” The new benches will need to be custom made to match the existing benches, which date from the early 1960s when the church was built. (Not all of the pews missing in the photo above were damaged by the fire; some had to be removed so the cleanup crew could build scaffolding to clean the church rafters.)

Peragallo Organ, which had built OLL’s organ and maintains it, has assessed the smoke damage to the organ. “Because of the nature of the instrument, it will require extensive work to clean the ash and soot that settled into the pipes,” Father Peter said in a note to parishioners. “This is a long and tedious process, which will require the removal of the instrument to their shop. They are estimating that it will take up to 12 months.” He added that, while the cost of a new pipe organ would be far higher, OLL is seeking a second opinion on the repairs.

OLL has also gotten a $6,000 estimate on repairs to three statues outside in its back lot that were damaged in previous incidents.

While the church has property insurance, Father Peter said that there is a $10,000 deductible on the policy and then the church must pay an additional 10% of the total cost of the cleaning and restoration. “We are seeking restitution through the legal process, but due to his illness, Mr. Bennett has not been employed,” Father Peter wrote, referring to Eliot Bennett, a Verona resident who turned himself in to the Verona Police Department after the fire. In a brief hearing on April 10, an Essex County court agreed to keep Bennett in detention for his involvement in the fire.

Parishioners and others are stepping up to fund the restoration. “Last weekend, generous parishioners contributed $7,000 in with their regular weekly contribution,” Father Peter wrote. “During the week many people, both from our parish community and those who heard the news and wanted to do something have increased that number significantly. A man from Englewood came to the door with a check for $500 because he heard the news and desired to help.”

All activities that would have been held in the church will be held in the auditorium of Our Lady of the Lake School until the cleaning process is completed.

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