Insurance claim approved in full

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THE insurance claim to repair fire and asbestos damage in First Presbyterian Church has been approved in full.
The insurers have appointed a project team and work on the site will begin next week, with church elder William Watt hopeful repairs will be completed by the end of the year.
A fire believed to have been caused by an electrical fault broke out in the ceiling void below the copper roof dome late last year. About 20% of the interior was affected by fire or water damage, debris fell into the sanctuary — the focal point of the church which houses the altar and lectern — and the just-completed interior paint job was ruined.
Mr Watt said the greatest relief for the congregation was the paint, jib and other refurbishments funded by the community were also covered by the claim.
‘‘If it had been 40 years since renovations had been completed we may not have been covered completely. However, because work was recent, the insurers took that into consideration.’’
Mr Watt said work would be completed in two stages. The first would involve the repair and decontamination of the church hall and the removal of scaffolding, and the second would be the repair and renovation of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary was not touched by the fire but the down-draft sucked deposits of asbestos from the ceiling, and clean-up was arduous, he said.
‘‘Basically, the sanctuary needs refurbished completely below shoulder height.’’
The project team set up to formulate repair plans would include the insurers and architects, with input from church members to ensure the renovated sanctuary was a ‘‘functional replacement’’ to serve worshippers now and into the future, he said.
‘‘There could be subtle changes that could add up to something significant. We want First Church to be far more part of the space that we call Invercargill — more than just for those who come here on Sundays.’’
That included an improved space for events such as civic funerals, he said, and enhancing the church’s ‘‘superb acoustics’’, by carpeting the sanctuary floor where previously there were bare boards.

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