JOLIET, Ill. (STMW) — The city is moving to have a 120-year-old church demolished after a year has passed without any repairs to structural damage caused by a storm.

During a storm April 17, 2012, strong winds blew down a chimney at the north end of the Church of the Living God, 353 E. Jackson St., onto part of a detached garage next door. Citing “concern with the roof and condition of the walls,” city building inspectors tagged the building as unsuitable for occupancy.

Since then, steel barriers lined with yellow tape have blocked the sidewalks of Jackson and Herkimer streets in front of the church and the alley between Herkimer and Collins streets.

The four-story brick building was built in 1893 as a house of worship for another faith. Church of the Living God had about 100 members shortly after moving into the building in 1973, but Pastor Joseph Jones now has about 25 adults and children who attend services.

Because no one is allowed inside the building, Sunday services have been held at members’ houses for the last year, Jones said.

He said the cost of repairs has been estimated at $250,000, which his small congregation simply cannot afford.

“I’ve been asking for someone in the community to humble themselves. I (still) hope that someone will give us a hand,” he said.

But with the church not having any plans to repair the building, Aldredo Melesio, director of Joliet’s neighborhood services department, has started legal proceedings to tear down the structure.

Melesio said the city sent a notice at the end of last summer, asking that church officials submit a plan to either demolish or repair the building but received no response. The matter was referred to the city’s legal department in December, and a lawsuit has been filed, he said.

“It’s sad they can’t make the repairs. It’s a beautiful structure,” Melesio said. “It will also be costly for the city to knock it down.”

He said the church will still own the land if the city demolishes the building, but there will be a lien placed on the property.

Court records show the church is involved in a small-claims lawsuit by State Farm Insurance regarding the landlord whose garage was damaged by the chimney. A summons was issued March 8, asking for $7,960 plus court costs, but records show the petitioners were unable to serve any church representatives in time for the April 3 court date. The court hearing has been rescheduled for May 3.

The only other programs that were active last April, Bible study and Sunday school, have been scaled back, but Jones was able to eulogize one of the Hickory Street strangling victims in January at St. Patrick’s Church.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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