June 16, 2009


Crews work to repair St. Mary’s rectory

Parish officials are discussing new uses for building damaged by a March 24 fire

St Marys

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Workers for CNY Fire and Emergency Service of Syracuse move trusses that will be used in the new roof being built on the St. Mary’s rectory, which suffered fire damage three months ago.

Staff Reporter

Construction crews are working to restore the rectory of St. Mary’s Church as parish officials discuss other possible uses for the building in the wake of a March fire.
Syracuse-based CNY Fire Emergency Services has been hired to restore the rectory and workers are making necessary repairs to the structure and to bring the building’s utilities up to current code requirements.
Steve Cute, a facilities manager for St. Mary’s parish, said repairs to the rectory interior are expected to begin once the roof work is completed.
He said the third floor is “gutted,” because it had the most fire damage. Firefighters said the rectory had smoke and water damage down through the building’s walls and ceilings.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse is self-insured for the repair costs to the rectory. Murphy said repair costs are roughly estimated at between $400,000 and 500,000.
Investigators were unable to pinpoint what ignited the fire, but determined it was accidental.
The rectory, which has three floors, predates the church and was built in 1891.
The rectory fire occurred about 11:45 p.m. March 24 and was confined to the northwestern section of the rectory above the third-floor ceiling, firefighters said.
No one was inside the rectory at the time.
The Rev. James Tormey, during Sunday Mass, said there are differing opinions about what to do with the rectory building. He discussed possibilities, including remodeling it or turning it into a retirement home for priests.
Jim Murphy, a member of the parish building and grounds committee, said there are several bedrooms in the rectory which could house retired priests. The retired priests could help do work in hospitals or nursing homes, Murphy said, adding nothing has been finalized.
“It’s up in the air at this point,” he said.
Tormey, a priest from Oneida County assigned to the St. Mary’s Parish, had been living at the rectory but was in Utica the night of the fire.
Tormey, from St. John’s Church in Rome, has been celebrating Mass at St. Mary’s since the death of Monsignor Michael Minehan in November.
Jeff Robinson, a project manager for CNY Fire Emergency Services, estimated it could take several months before work on the rectory is completed.
“The real issue is to maintain the presence of the building,” Robinson said. “We’re not retrofitting the whole building, just the third floor.”
Utilities throughout the building will also be replaced, he added.
Robinson said electrical wiring and plumbing, including the bathrooms, which he added have not been updated since their installation, will also be replaced.
Murphy said the building and grounds committee would meet with city code enforcement officers about bringing the rectory up to current requirements, which could mean adding a sprinkler system and smoke detectors.
Robinson also said carpeting inside the rectory was damaged during the firefighting and is being removed. He said CNY Fire Emergency Services workers will refinish the original hardwood floors underneath the carpeting and leave it to parish officials to decide whether new carpeting would be installed.
Workers from CNY Fire Emergency Services also assisted in moving furniture and other supplies to the St. Mary’s Church parish center, located on North Main Street.
Daily rectory operations have been conducted from the parish center since the fire.
Whether the operations remain there is still a matter of discussion, said Murphy, adding it is possible those operations would remain since the equipment was already moved to the parish center before the fire.


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