- Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 13:27
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During a request for public comments, the town heard light opposition to a proposal to renovate the old Klotz building to offer a home to pregnant woman in need. After co-founder Randy James spoke to the crowd, the audience showed support with loud applause.
Colonial Beach Town Council has been approached by Randy James to lease the old Klotz building located at 6 North Irving Ave., next to the old police department.
The building has been abandoned for a couple years and the interior has suffered from neglect. A recent inspection of the property by town officials in the Building and Zoning office revealed that if left alone the building will soon reach the point of being dangerous and will be eligible for condemnation.
Randy James, along with the help and approval of Father Francis DeRasa of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, approached the council and the town with an offer to use the building.
James and his wife lost their newborn son, Paul Stefan, to complications and want to open a residency for pregnant unwed mothers in his name.
Their mission is to establish a home for expectant mothers, recognizing that the established programs might not be appropriate for all applicants. Each applicant will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The Paul Stefan Home for Expectant Mothers staff will work collaboratively with other agencies in the community to assist pregnant women to find the program(s) that will meet their individual needs.
The program will offer a safe welcoming environment for expectant mothers in need and offer nutritional assistance and help set up medical assistance as well.
The foundation is proposing to rent the building at a low price for five to ten years, and in return, plans to upgrade the building to meet safety standards. In the event the foundation moves or the town sells the building, the town will be asked to reimburse up to $50,000 for renovations.
Town officials have estimated the need for renovations will cost over $100,000.
Councilman Tim Curtin explained to the audience why he has taken a personal interest in helping the foundation achieve their goal. “I was raised by a mother who became a widow during her pregnancy until I was nine years old. I can’t help but wonder whether a facility of this nature would have been useful to her.”
The council asked the public to attend last week’s town council meeting to give public opinion on the matter. The council did not precede the public speaking with a presentation so many speakers had questions.
Diane Pearson told the group that the building was our first school house and reminded council the it is in the historic district. Pearson said the building next door was used as a fire department then a police department.
“We need to preserve the history of the town since it is a historical town.”
Pearson said she feels the building should not be rented for a minimal fee and suggested the group use one of the buildings belonging to the church.
Wanda Goforth admitted not knowing much about the proposal by the Paul Stefan Foundation, “I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I’ve been out of town a lot. I have mixed feelings not knowing the details. I’m in favor of preserving any historic building if it will save it. I am reserved about this being near the boardwalk in the historic district.”
Trish King brought up that there is limited parking for that building, “One of the problems could be parking, I have no idea of how many parking spaces are needed.”
King added, “Just from a business standpoint I think the building should be preserved.”
Margaret McMullen said, “I don’t have an objection to the building being used for the use described but I do have concerns about parking,”
Steve Cirbee cleared up some misconceptions, explaining that the present state of the building required immediate attention or it would soon need to be condemned.
Cirbee said, “I looked at the building a few months ago, if something is not done with the building then, by our own regulations, the building will have to be condemned and torn down.
“No matter what the use is we have not had a lot of opportunity to rent these buildings.
“We have an opportunity to have a foundation come in and renovate the building and make use of it and the town will still retain ownership.
“I don’t think the town has the money or desire to renovate these buildings for their own use.”
Father DeRasa of Saint Elizabeth explained to the crowd the scope of the church’s involvement, “It is not a project of the church but is condoned by the church.
“The Paul Stefan Foundation will put its own money into renovations up to $100,000. It will allow the building to be saved and renovated.
“The women who would come, would be three to four women. We will have small suites for women who have been humbled. No men will be allowed in the building and it will not be a place to entertain boyfriends.”
Co-founder Mr. James addressed concerns the speakers had vocalized.
“I have a simple mission, back in 2005 our son died at birth. Six years later we started a foundation for women that were in need, in crisis and needed help when they become pregnant.
“We help them get jobs, cars, education, tutor them to help them get a GED. We try to help them take advantage of governmental services that are there for them as well as provide moral support.”
James explained his thought process for helping women, “If we save the woman we save the baby. If women have nowhere to turn when the man leaves, sometimes she becomes desperate. The Paul Stefan foundation helps to keep them from acting on that desperation to keep them happy, healthy and moving forward with their lives so they can raise their babies in an emotionally and physically healthy environment.
“We don’t discriminate based on religious beliefs and we don’t force beliefs on them.”
James also assured the public that there would only be three to four residents at one time and most of these women would not be likely to have cars, so parking would not be a problem.
After James spoke the crowd applauded loudly, which councilman Curtin said was a good sign that after knowing the facts, the attendees were in favor of the mission set out by the Paul Stefan Foundation.