Care of Echo church draws concern

St. Peter's Church was dedicated in 1913 and is located on the west side of Echo.

By Shelby Zacharias

Staff Writer

HERMISTON — One of Echo's historic buildings has been deteriorating for more than a decade and Catholic church members are concerned about its fate.

About a dozen church and community members met Monday night to discuss St. Peter's Catholic Church.

The church was donated to the Fort Henrietta Foundation in 1996. At the time, the Catholic diocese did not have resources to maintain the church.

The deed stipulated a number of conditions that the foundation would have to meet. If those conditions were not met, the property would divert back to the diocese.

Eleven years later, members are concerned that those conditions have still not been met. However, the contract is ambiguous, giving no timeline for the conditions. Echo resident and parishioner Mike Duffy lead Monday's meeting.

Peeling paint, broken windows and other signs of deterioration are plainly visible on the nearly 100 year old church.

"My sincere hope is that we can somehow come up with a positive way to deal with this," Duffy said. "We don't have manpower. And we don't have money. But we have a lot of good intentions."

Duffy said the purpose of the meeting was to clear up confusion about the property.

Duffy said that some believe the nonprofit Fort Henrietta Foundation is a part of the city, but stressed that it is a separate entity.

According to Diane Berry, the foundation told the church in 1996 that it didn't have the money to restore the building.

Berry, the executive director and foundation board member, said that the roof was repaired according to the contract with funding from a grant. It also paid for an architectural evaluation of restoration costs. The 1999 report indicated the church needed about $100,000 in repairs.

Berry said she has applied for additional grants, but has not received any. A number of donations have been made totaling $11,000 when combined with the roof grant.

She did say that the foundation is in the process of installing an alarm system and that it has plans to put locking display cases in the building to protect sacred items inside the church. Berry said that without volunteers to raise money or additional grant money, the foundation will not be able to make any additional improvements at this time.

"We would really hate to see the building stripped out and sold," Berry said.

Skip Thompson, a church member, did recommend that the church request that the foundation allow the sacred items be removed from the church and stored in a secure place until such a time as St. Peter's is restored and the items can then be safely returned.

He was nominated to present the suggestions to the church council at their next meeting.

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