"I find it quite frankly, insulting. I feel like Loveland is a dictatorship, anything but a democracy.”
-LPC President, Paula Aguah
Loveland, Oh. - Shaking, trying to read the piece of paper in his hands, City Manager, Thomas Carroll sat at the council table last Tuesday night as Paula Oguah spoke during open forum, reacting to Carroll’s letter to her about her efforts to save the historic, landmark, Predestinarian Church.Both Aguah and Joe Schickel went to the council meeting last week to express dismay at a letter Oguah received that morning from Carroll. Oguah is President, and Schickel is the Fund Raising Chair, of the Loveland Predestinarian Church Preservation Committee (LPC), that hopes to save the historic, landmark Black church on Chestnut Street from the wrecking ball.
Aguah began her comments by saying, “I must say tonight, I do not come with an olive branch.” She said she found Carroll’s letter, “Over the hill.”
In the letter, Carroll warned that the church could, in the coming weeks be demolished because the Hamilton County Department of Health has condemned the 200 year-old church because structural remedies and health problems noted by their inspection have not been remediated.
Revealed that City had historic Black church condemmed
Oguah further challenged council members to investigate who called the Health Department about problems with the taxpayer owned property resulting in it’s condemnation. Loveland Magazine has since confirmed that it was the Carroll Administration that called. The Assistant City Manager at the time, Gary Vidmar, asked for the inspection. Oguah further challenged the administration’s assertion that the agency will order the building demolished if repairs to prevent further deterioration are not soon made. She said she has spoken to the Health Department months ago and they told her that they will take no further action. Loveland Magazine has also confirmed this. Mike Samet, the Health District’s Public Information Officer said last week that they will have no further involvement unless they are called, or if someone wants to occupy the building in the future. The condemnation order, is a “Shall Not Be Occupied” order, not a demolition order.
“A prompt and mutually satisfactory path forward will need to be found very soon or any chance of saving this structure will likely be lost forever,” Carroll wrote in his letter.
Vidmar was asked on Monday why, when they got the Health Department report, were things not fixed. He said that some things were too expensive and said it was their “choice” not to do the others. When asked why the hole in the roof over the sanctuary was not patched or holes closed where animals were entering, Vidmar said, “Well, where do you stop.” He said it would be useless to make repairs when the end use of the building was not yet known.
Oguah said that because the City has not yet sold the church to LPC, who would have already made these immediate repairs, “The animals are eating it alive.”
In what Carroll is describing as “a path forward” he is asking LPC to turn over the money they have raised to the City and sign a two year lease. All of LPC’s money could be lost if the City determines after two years they still want the building removed from the site, either by moving it or demolition. LPC would be responsible for raising a minimum of $80,000. His estimate is LPC would need a minimum of $14,000 more by the end of July. He wants LPC to deposit all currently available funds to a city account by July 14. The City would control the funds and accomplish
Carroll says that he has not determined all possible costs and his estimate is only to secure the main structure, and leaves the interior of the building with no interior walls, including only a “limited” heating and cooling system. He estimates it will cost $30,000 to replace the roof, assuming the “trusses are mostly structurally sound and the plywood sub-roof is not entirely rotted.”
“…Your organization will commit to covering any overages over the $80,000 budget and will continue to raise funds during the term of the lease for the structures [Sic] continued preservation, and ultimately, its restoration.” Your committee will be responsible for taxes and all other utility costs during the term of the lease.”
Carroll’s estimate will leave the exterior shell unfinished, except for a new roof. It does not include window replacement.
Carroll said in his letter, “The city will reserve the absolute right, now and into the future, to move the church building the structure [Sic] to another location at the City’s sole expense.” He estimates the cost to locate the building within 1/2 mile to be $30,000. Carroll says the City must retain the option of demolishing the church or moving it, to preserve use of the underling land for future development of an adjacent city owned 8 acres - a former gravel pit and unauthorized dumping site for some current and former businesses along Loveland Madeira Road. Schickel describes Carroll’s stated need for the underlying church land as a “red herring” that has been, “...blown up, exaggerated and it’s totally false.”
Schickel said he found Carroll’s proposal, “patronizing.” He added that LPC can do the restoration much cheaper.
Oguah said LPC membership is comprised of professionals very well educated in their various disciplines and perfectly capable of managing their own money and the preservation efforts.
"I find it quite frankly, insulting. I feel like Loveland is a dictatorship, anything but a democracy.” She continued, “So, whatever heat I have to take for speaking out honestly and just getting down to the brass tacks today… I just have to take it. It will be on my back. This micro managing, this dictatorship, is just too much. Just treat us like any responsible citizens”
“We’ve danced around this game for a long time,” Aguah said.
While Oguah and Schickel were at the podium, no one at the council table including the city Manager entered into a dialogue with them. After the public forum microphone was turned off, Mayor Rob Weisgerber explained why he thought the City should retain control over the property.
Since the council meeting, council-members, Paulette Leeper, Angie Settell, and Linda Cox have met with Schickel or Oguah at the church to discuss access concerns to the 8 acre parcel Carroll hopes to someday use for economic development.
If you would like to contribute time or money to saving the church from the wrecking ball contact Paula Aguah at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note and Disclosure: Loveland Magazine has provided resources for LPB, and Publisher, David Miller has contributed personal funds for the church restoration project.