Growing Old, Isn't Easy
We have had a small team (the Building Renewal Team), charged by the council to meet and study the future needs of our 27 year old building to determine what needs repair or replacement. Our directive was to identify the needs, get budgetary quotes from contractors, and turn that information over to the church council for them to prioritize the order in which those projects should be done. The council would come up with a plan for how to pay for them.
The last quote we were waiting for was for replacement of the 3 air handling units serving the worship area, the fellowship hall, and the classroom wing. We asked for a separate quote for just the worship area unit by itself to spread out the costs a bit if that became necessary. If one of the other two units went out, we could probably get by with a single unit maintaining temperature in those two areas until a new unit arrived. The difficulty in waiting to replace any of these units until they failed was the 26-30 week lead time to get a new one.
We got the quote for unit replacement on Friday March 3rd. Sunday morning March 5th, Pastor Nate called to say the worship area was very cold and he couldn’t get the air handler to start. I grabbed some tools and headed to church to find there was power to the unit, but the thermostat was dead. I discovered a blown fuse in the control circuit. Upon replacing the fuse the unit, I started it up and BANG, it backfired and flames shot out of the unit when the burners lit. That was not good. We had our service tech come in and he advised us not to run the unit anymore.
We asked the contractor about changing out the heat exchanger. They quoted $6,450 to replace the heat exchanger which is roughly 20% of the $35000 cost of replacing the entire unit and they do not recommend that work on our 27 year old unit. Our normal service technician spoke against such a repair as well. Even if we replace the heat exchanger there is no assurance how long it will last.
All three of the large air handlers are package units so the heating and cooling sections are all in each unit. The heat exchanger that is cracked won’t affect the cooling operation of the worship area unit so we can use it to air condition the worship area for the summer (unless there is something wrong with that part of the unit as well, which is possible).
The council met Thursday March 9th for their regular meeting and discussed what to do about this air handler as part of their agenda. There is some economy of scale to have all three units replaced at the same time but the cost to do all three is probably beyond our reach at this time so the decision was made to replace just the worship area air handler.
An anonymous donor is providing the $5000 down payment necessary for us to enter into a contract to replace the unit. Once the unit is ordered and it gets on the factory’s production schedule, there is a chance the 26-30 week lead time may shorten.
The timing of the unit toasting out on us is pretty astonishing. If we had had a plan in place to replace this unit, we probably would be ordering it right about this time of year to manage the lead time so we could get it installed by our next heating season. We are fortunate! We could have continued to operate as we were, but if the unit had died in November, it would have been a much more difficult scenario to navigate, than where we are now. Praise God!
The challenge now is to raise the $30,000 balance of the contract to pay for the replacement of this unit in the next 6 months. In years past I had always hoped that some unknown benefactor within our congregation would step up to cover the cost of such a situation as we find ourselves in now. I have come to believe that a sense of belonging, of being community, and of being part of the body of Christ comes together, so that everyone, working together is part of the solution to the problems that come our way.
One of the discoveries we as a building renewal team made was that most of the needs of our building can be corrected in $40,000 increments. Replacing the worship area unit one year, the other two units the next year, and replacing the carpeted floors each would be covered. Two years at that rate would replace the roof and redo the steeple in the worship area.
If each family in our congregation gave $5 a week toward maintaining our building, it would, strangely enough, equal about $40000 a year. It is very important that each of us maintain our normal weekly financial commitment so our ministry spending plan is funded and our church lives can continue to flourish. The five bucks would be used to cover the costs of owning the building, not operating it, just as each of us has to repair and replace a furnace, a roof, or carpet in our own homes.
I have every confidence that there is the faith, will, and resources in the fabric of our congregation that we will raise the funds necessary to have this air handler replaced and then begin the program of long term repair and maintenance that our building needs. Together, we can do all things, through Christ who strengthens us! Philippians 4:13