Originally created 06/29/02

Church struggles to complete renovations



William Wright has big plans for Union Baptist Church.

Now all he needs is the money and someone to do the work.

The church, built in 1851 and located at 11th and Greene streets, has been in the midst of a massive restoration effort for more than a year.

With the help of a $39,000 grant from the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, construction crews worked feverishly last year to replace the church's dilapidated roof.

But since that work was completed, little has been done to the historic building.

For more than a year, renovations have been at a standstill.

Worship services are still held every Sunday, Mr. Wright said. There are 45 registered members, but only 20 still regularly attend.

"I don't think it's as structurally unsound as it looks," said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta.

According to Mr. Wright, problems with the contractor halted repair efforts.

"Our original contractor (the Rev. McArthur Sanders of Charlotte, N.C.-based C.M. Sanders Builders) became ill with cancer," he said. "We were trying to wait it out and see if he could finish the work."

The church is now accepting bids to replace the building's decaying wood, Mr. Wright said.

Then there's the money.

Early estimates on the total cost of repairs have reached $20,000, plus $16,000 for a central heating and air-conditioning system. The church now relies on window units. Work on the steeples and the remaining roof replacements still must be completed.

The church will have to rely on fund-raising efforts and community donations to finance the remainder of the work, Mr. Wright said.

Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3220 or jennifer.hilliard@augustachronicle.com.