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Vienna Town Council punts on roof fixes for former Faith Baptist Church

The cross on the former Faith Baptist Church in Vienna will be removed (file photo)

The cross atop the former Faith Baptist Church in Vienna will come down, but otherwise, the town has opted for a “wait and see” approach to the 3-acre property it purchased in 2020.

The Vienna Town Council unanimously voted on Aug. 29 to indefinitely postpone repairs to the roof of the aging building at 301 Center Street South.

While staff argued that improvements are needed to stop recurring water leaks, council members balked at the idea of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a building that they could ultimately decide to demolish.

“I would like to do the absolute minimum, even if that does cause some further damage to the building, rather than commit a lot of money,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “If you spend a half million dollars on a roof, psychologically, you’re committed to that building, and I personally have not reached the conclusion that the best use for that property involves some sort of rehabilitation and repurposing of the existing structure.”

Built in 1956, per Fairfax County property records, the former church — now informally dubbed the Annex — will require substantial renovations to meet current building code standards and get approved for occupancy, a study by Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP found.

Though town staff are making spot repairs as leaks and other problems emerge, Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman requested the council’s support last week to replace the roof, either as a whole or in parts.

“Addressing the flat roof is the most pressing, current issue to ensure that the Annex does not incur further damage and deterioration due to the leaks,” Herman said. “There are issues on the shingled, sloped roof that will need attention in the very near future.”

Replacing the flat roof alone could cost $122,000 to $228,400, staff estimated. New rooftop HVAC units and removing the sanctuary windows would add $90,000 to the bill.

The cost of a complete roof overhaul ranges from $293,200 to $443,400, including up to $15,000 to take down the church steeple.

Whitman Requardt estimated that it would take up to $1 million to bring the building up to code and make it suitable for community uses. Herman noted that construction and supply costs have climbed since that study was first presented to the council in March.

When asked if the roof could hold up for another year without repairs, Vienna Facility Manager Leon Evans said he believes it could, but there’s no guarantee.

“I just got finished with the HVAC system that just failed in the sanctuary today,” he told the council. “All I was asked was to get numbers for you so you guys could figure out what direction you want to go.”

After some debate and confusion over the difference between the flat and sloped parts of the roof, the council decided to remove the church’s cross but hold repairs until after the completion of a feasibility report commissioned on June 13.

Expected to begin this fall and finish in spring 2023, the report will recommend long-term options for the Annex, which is housing the police department until its now-open station is ready for officers to move in later this month.

For now, parks and rec staff may need to keep buckets and tarp handy to deal with those pesky roof leaks. Mayor Linda Colbert acknowledged that the repairs deferral wasn’t what staff had hoped for.

“There’s just a lot of questions still,” Colbert said. “I would hate to vote on something now and not have it be the right thing. You’re right we’re taking a risk.”

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