WEST CARTHAGE The Church of God Soldiers of Jesus Christ is now one step closer to converting the former West Carthage Elementary School into a church.
Following a June 27 presentation by the Rev. Pedro A. Torres, the village Planning Board granted a special-use permit to the church to allow the building, which is in a residential zone, to be used as a place of worship.
The Rev. Mr. Torres, who serves as the churchs senior pastor, said the church plans to initially use the multipurpose area for worship services while the gymnasium is repaired. The church, which holds services at St. Pauls Episcopal Church in Watertown, plans to have services at its new location Friday nights and 10 a.m. to noon Sundays starting in the fall. The first-floor classrooms will be used for Sunday school and the pastor will use the former principals office.
The pastor said in the future he would like to operate a day-care center in the former kindergarten classrooms because they are perfectly prepared for that use. Eventually, the church would like to use the entire building to serve the community with emergency food and clothing pantries.
Planning Board Chairman Ronald J. Blinebry questioned the Rev. Mr. Torres about the extent of the proposed pantries. The pastor assured the chairman the items stored at the building would be minimal and there were no plans to have dropoffs for clothing.
Board member R. David Rohr asked about handicapped accessibility.
The pastor said the first floor was accessible and provides for everything needed at the time. The upper floors will be office and classroom space. However, if necessary, the church will install a ramp.
Church officials plan to install a parking lot to accommodate 50 to 60 spaces in the front portion of the former playground across the street from the school on the Madison Street side. Prior to the installation of the lot, parking will be available along the buildings side.
The issue of signs was addressed. The Rev. Mr. Torres said the sign on Jefferson Street would be repainted with a generic sign. On the Madison side of the building, a smaller sign would be installed.
Steps outside the building in need of repair would be blocked off until they are usable, the pastor said.
We guarantee the building will be clean and neat, he said. We will take good care of the building. We believe we will be an asset and a blessing to West Carthage in many ways.
The church now will have to get the Jefferson County Planning Boards blessing for a certificate of occupancy and finalize the purchase to operate the facility.
It is a good fit for a great old building, Mr. Rohr said.