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Gunnison Chapel renovations underway; spire and tower remain unassigned

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By ALAN RIZZO

CANTON — Signs of a resurrection are beginning to show at St. Lawrence University’s Gunnison Memorial Chapel, as crews restored pews and flooring early this week. The restorations have been in full swing for the past month.

The chapel was damaged by a fire Oct. 6. The university’s claim with Travelers Insurance has been approved, and a total of 14 projects have been identified.

However, for many jobs the university is still narrowing the field of contractors.

To date, Rishe’s Custom Hardwood Flooring, Ogdensburg, has removed all damaged material from the main floor, and has moved the pews of the main floor off site so they can be refinished. Rishe’s also has been busy upstairs refinishing the balcony pews, which stayed in place as crews sanded them down. Both the pews and flooring suffered water damage during the fire.

Once the flooring is installed, workers from John Tiedemann Inc., North Arlington, N.J., will clean and paint the chapel’s interior.

SLU has not yet awarded a contract for its largest project — the damaged bell tower — which involves “significant repointing of the mortar,” SLU Director of Media Relations Ryan P. Deuel said in a news release last week.

The spire is also still on hold, although the university’s request for proposals has narrowed the field of potential companies, Mr. Deuel said. That work is expected to take a minimum of six months.

Because many projects include specialized work, the university is taking its time selecting contractors.

“We really want to focus on the coppersmith work because we want to restore the spire and even the rooster weathervane to be an exact replica of the original,” SLU Chief Facilities Officer Daniel B. Seaman said.

The university hopes to select a contractor for the project by Tuesday, with the bell tower soon to follow. For the bell tower, no completion date was specified.

It is likely some contractors will be responsible for multiple jobs, as work “will be condensed and awarded as single projects,” Mr. Seaman said.

The Bacheller chime, which was suspected to have suffered damage in last year’s fire, is still undergoing an assessment.

With the repair downtime, SLU also plans to tackle its pre-fire chapel projects. Workers from J&R Lamb Studios, Midland Park, N.J., were on site Wednesday morning replacing the protective glass that covers the stained-glass windows. A restroom on the main floor that will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act also will be built. With the design for the restroom complete, the university can send out a request for proposals.

“I’m very happy with the progress we’re making,” Mr. Seaman said in a news release last week. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to repair and restore the bell tower and spire to just how they looked prior to the fire.”

The chapel’s spire was destroyed in October when an electrical fire broke out in the steeple. The bell tower also was heavily damaged, along with the interior of the chapel, as firefighters doused the flames.

SLU intends to complete its renovations throughout the 2014-15 academic year, and have the chapel in its original condition by next year’s commencement, Mr. Deuel said.

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