Leaders in the city of Gloversville are hoping to recover the stained-glass windows removed from a vacant church in the city, as well as some fines and back taxes, after a meeting with the property owners Tuesday night.
The former First Methodist Church, at 7 Elm St. in the heart of downtown, has been unused since about 2009. Since the stained-glass windows were removed in 2011, it has become a boarded-up eyesore that neither the city, Fulton County nor current owners want to deal with.
“The good news is that the [Church of God of Prophecy] has after several years shown up to make this situation right,” Gloversville Fourth Ward Councilman Steven Smith said on Wednesday. “Now I guess it just remains to be seen how right it can be made.”
Representatives from the Church of God of Prophecy in Albany, which bought the property in 2000 from the First Methodist Church for $60,000, met with the mayor and Common Council Tuesday night to discuss possible solutions for the property, according to city officials.
When the stained-glass windows and a large clock were removed in 2011 without city permits or approval, the church was hit with a $60,000 fine. It also owes about $25,000 in back taxes on the property.
Smith, an architectural engineer, said it appeared as if unsuccessful attempts had been made to remove a large brass bell from a tower in the church as well.
City leaders had assumed the valuable windows were sold off, but were told Tuesday that they’re sitting in a warehouse in Kingston. The clock remains unaccounted for.
“They would be willing to return the windows,” said Gloversville Mayor Dayton King. “Basically they wanted to turn the keys and everything over to us and have us take it back.”
According to Smith, who did some consulting for the church after the windows were removed, this new dialogue seems to come from a change in leadership at the Church of God of Prophecy.
“I think that they’re willing to make amends with the city at some level,” he said. “They’re just interested in cleaning up that black eye and moving forward.”
The Church of God of Prophecy in Albany did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
According to Smith, the church originally bought the property to establish a congregation in the city that never took off.
So far, the city does not seem interested in taking ownership of the building. It declined to do so last year when the county was moving to foreclose on the property and offered it to the city. That foreclosure was never finalized, and the property remained in the hands of the church.
King reiterated on Wednesday that he is not interested in taking on the cost and liability of owning and restoring the building.
“I’m in no hurry to take this building back,” he said. “Just being conservative and looking after the taxpayer’s interest, I would love for another active church or not-for-profit to do that, not the city.”
He and Smith said the city would consider the possibility of waiving or reducing the $60,000 fine and the city tax bill in exchange for the windows, but the county and school taxes would be up to those entities.
King said the church representatives said they could possibly pay some of the back taxes, but it would take months.
The city demolished an abandoned First Baptist church on South Main Street in 2011 with the help of a Restore New York grant. King said the former First Methodist church is not a safety hazard, like the First Baptist church was, and therefore would not be eligible for demolition grants.
Smith likewise said demolition is not likely.
“It’s a significant building,” he said. “It has historic and architectural significance and to let it fall down, which is what it’s going toward now, would be unfortunate.”
King said he and the Common Council will study their options and hopefully come to a decision by their next meeting on Feb. 9.
Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.