Demolition of historic Meath Park church 'a decision that nobody wanted to have to make'
Bylaw officer for village says failing foundation of church was a safety concern
A 60-year-old church in the village of Meath Park, Sask., has been demolished despite backlash from some in the community, 170 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
"It was a decision that nobody wanted to have to make," said Meath Park's bylaw officer, Chris Letendre, in an official statement.
The statement said the village began demolition of the former St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church on Tuesday due to "significant structural failure of the building's foundation leading to a compromised floor structure, the south-facing load-bearing wall and roof assembly."
Pauline Bear, one of the board members for the Country Gospel Fellowship, said the fellowship's pastor, Abrom Friesen, owns the church and its property. She said they were not notified of the impending demolition until March 16.
Bear said she went to the property last Monday morning and was able to delay action on the demolition until Tuesday at 1 p.m.
"There was no way that I was going to allow them to tear down this church without at least a fight," Bear said.
"I don't understand why the public was not notified about it because it's a historical church. I wasn't going to let this church come down without the public knowing that it's coming down."
Bear said she was not given time to get anything out of the church and eventually she and Friesen were escorted off of the property by RCMP.
"I felt that we should have at least enough respect to take down the stained glass and different things," said Bear. "We're tired of fighting. But it's not right, the way they did it."
The church was constructed between 1958 and 1959. Bear said Friesen purchased the church 17 years ago to reopen it, but the village was already trying to condemn it at the time.
Village says owner was warned
When Letendre was appointed as the village's bylaw and building officer in 2017, he said he inspected the building and found out the basement was open to the outside where the foundation had collapsed, all the exterior doors were left open and only a few windows were left intact, due to people trespassing on the property and entering the building.
The structure itself was slumped down over the failed foundation.
"I had sent out a personal letter introducing myself to Mr. Friesen and requesting that he secure the property because the foundation had failed and there was school children crossing the street and trespassing onto the property," Letendre told CBC. "He just didn't do anything."
Letendre said he sent an "order to remedy" to Friesen on May 29, 2017, ordering for either the completion of the repairs of the demolition of the building by June 30. He had the option to appeal on or before June 13, but didn't do so, Letendre said.
The village's Nuisance Abatement Bylaw and the province's Municipalities Act give the village "the authority to take action to eliminate the danger the building posed," Letendre said in his statement.
Bear maintains that Friesen did not receive a registered letter notifying him of the action required.
"After deliberation, and the lack of effort to secure the [building] to prevent people from entering the building done by the property owner, it was determined that the building was beyond the owner's means of care or repair," Letendre's statement said.
He said it was decided "that the village must follow through with the order to remedy of the church to prevent rodent infestation, trespassing, fire hazards or the possibility of injury, or worse yet the loss of life in the building by means of demolition."