CLIFTON The diocesan facilities department has launched a pilot project to assist pastors to have inspections of buildings on parish properties completed in order to maintain the structural integrity of the facilities and to ensure their safety.
At meetings held at three different locations in the diocese, more than 75 parish leaders attended, along with several diocesan agencies’ staff members to learn more about this project. The diocese has about 600 buildings — including parish campuses and agencies in Passaic, Sussex and Morris counties.
Msgr. James Mahoney, diocesan vicar general and pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, Chatham Township, said “Roofs, gutters, leaks, cracks, broiler problems never go away. These problems need to be addressed. The financial costs to do so are staggering so we need to analyze, to budget and to prepare long-term to handle our physical plants.”
Consulting with deans of the diocese, the facilities department developed a plan to assist pastors on making an initial assessment of their parish, develop a plan and begin to consider the parish’s needs for capital improvements and long-term maintenance.
The meetings, which were held at St. Paul Inside the Walls in Madison; Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Sparta; and St. John Paul II Center, Clifton, were led by Dennis Rodano, diocesan project manager. Also serving the diocesan facilities office are Rebeca Ruiz-Ulloa, diocesan architect; Ben Dubbels, facility project coordinator; and Divina Ramos, administrative assistant.
During the meetings, Rodano explained what’s involved in doing a total facility inspection. “The facilities inspections made by parishes and agencies will allow the diocese to understand the current state of our buildings and to develop and define what funds are needed for future maintenance,” Rodano said.
According to Rodano, there are several types of maintenance and the more proactive parishes are the less money they will spend in the long run on repairs. Expensive repairs are often preventable, he added. The more parishes postpone maintenance needed, the more significant costs will be. Parishes also need to be prepared if an emergency repair is needed, which can lead to decisions usually made without time to conduct a competitive bid as time to repair is of the essence. An example of an emergency repair could be an air conditioning system, which breaks down on a Friday night in July. This could be an considered an emergency if a wedding will take place the next day and it’s 90 degrees.
To do a self inspection, the diocese has asked pastors to create a parish building and grounds committee, if they haven’t done so already. With members of the committee, pastors should also invite the finance council, maintenance staff and contractors to conduct the inspection together.
Once the inspection has been done, parishes are to create inspection reports, which the diocese asks to be sent to the facilities department by June 1. The inspection report should be done at least once a year.
The inspection consists of three phases. The first phase, which involves long life and high replacement cost, includes roofs, paved surfaces, HVAC and the building exterior. Phase two includes stairs and ramps, railings, electrical systems and plumbing systems. Phase three includes interior finishes, furnishings and premises and fire alarms.
While this project might seem overwhelming, Franciscan Father Frank Sevola, pastor of St. Mary Parish Pompton Lakes and dean of Northern Passaic Deanery, conducted the inspection at his parish as one of the parishes that was part of the pilot program. He said at the meeting, “It is actually a simple process for something that is invaluable to our parishes. We got our team together, surveyed the buildings around our campus and got the inspection report done in about a week.”
The inspection form can be found on the diocesan website, www.rcdop.org and requires a password that can be obtained from the facilities department. To further help the inspection, parishes can also include photographs to help explain conditions. If repairs are needed, the diocesan facilities department also has information on having a contract in place before allowing any work to start.
Msgr. Mahoney said, “We need to be practical. We need to be smart. We cannot let our facilities get worse. Taking time for these inspections will help you address one of our most serious temporal responsibilities. We are all in much better shape when things are caught early.”