Engineer will evaluate St. Stephen Church property

St. Stephen Church in Oil City will be evaluated by a structural engineer on Thursday in the wake of a determination by the city’s code enforcement office that there are “severe infractions of the city’s code statutes” on the property.

Yvonne Greene, Oil City’s director of code enforcement, met last week with the Rev. John Miller, pastor of the Oil City Catholic Community; and St. Joseph Parish member Leon Kulinski about the issues regarding the building.

Greene told the newspaper an engineer from E&M Engineering and Surveyors of Bradford will evaluate the church Thursday, and she’ll accompany the engineer on his inspection.

Miller and Kulinski, Greene said, were “very accommodating” and committed to “rectifying the situation immediately” once the results of the engineer’s assessment are in.

“They are being very, very responsible,” Greene said of the parish leadership.

She added that all she wants is proof that the church is safe.

The engineer’s report will also make a recommendation on whether the covered walkway in front of St. Stephen Church should be extended down the length of the church on East First Street, Greene said.

The church was inspected Jan. 15 by the code office, then the city sent out a letter to the Erie Diocese that outlined a number of city code violations falling under “unsafe conditions” at St. Stephen.

The letter specifically laid out a number of problems with the exterior of the church.

The notice requested that a third party professional structural engineer be hired to inspect the church and provide a report of that inspection to the city to be put on record at City Hall.

If it is found that the church is unsafe, the report will “serve as a written plan to correct the deficiencies and to ensure that the structure is safe,” the letter said.

There have not been any weekend Masses at St. Stephen since September. Miller said at that time the church could still be used for weekday Masses along with funerals, weddings and baptisms.

Miller indicated Tuesday the status quo with St. Stephen Church remains and there have been no changes at this time.