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Connellsville structure has been preserved

| Monday, Nov. 15, 2010

A downtown Connellsville building has been repaired and in addition to being safe now, looks much better.

When lighting struck the roof of the City Church of Connellsville and Mark IV Office Supply Store in May, building owner and church pastor, the Rev. Brian Higbee, had the damage to an air conditioner and lighting repaired. Overnight Oct. 1, more damage became apparent when a number of bricks tumbled to West Apple Street from the rear south side of the roof.

Connellsville's First Autumn Mum Festival took place Oct. 2. The city closed a half a block of Apple Street for safety reasons. Street department saw horses kept the road blocked until Higbee, church members and relatives removed the bricks from the street and erected a safety wire barrier on the sidewalk.

City health and code officer Tom Currey told Higbee that the building had to be repaired to preserve public safety.

Volunteers including Higbee started repairs. Higbee said they replaced more than 4,000 bricks. "We tore off almost half, cleaned and reused them, but so many were broken we had to replace them," Higbee said. In order to prevent roof leaks, they had to install anchors and use an epoxy system.

He had experience. "I bricked my house two years ago."

Fortunately, the lightning caused no structural damage. Only the brick veneer was affected. Higbee said the bricks began expanding outwards "and in time, they fell. We were getting estimates, and then it fell."

The building is more than 100 years old. "It was rebuilt in 1911 and we don't know when it was originally built," Higbee said.

The repairs took about three weeks and Higbee appreciates both the human and the divine help. Church members Joey Hollowood, Ken Leyda and Travis Tucholski as well as Higbee's brothers Chris and Ross Higbee helped him repair the building. "The weather was ridiculous," he said. "God's helping us out. The city council gave us no hassle about blocking the street, so we were able to finish faster. We received no complaints."

One Call in New Stanton rented the lift and Auto Brick of Uniontown sold them the bricks.

"It's been a long process, but we received a tremendous amount of help," Higbee said. "When I saw it, I felt terrible that another building in town is distressed."

Fortunately, the distress was only one brick deep and a downtown structure has been preserved. In the spring, Higbee and his congregation plan on more beautification. "We're going to redo the front, take the metal down and reface it."

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