January 17th, 2020 - UPDATE MAILED TO MEMBERS
Dear USCL Member,
As the Board of Trustees, it is our intention to be as clear and transparent as possible about past events and plans moving forward. Since the fire on September 8, 2019, we have received questions on all aspects of the events that have taken place and how we will move forward.
To keep you up to date, we have conducted Town Hall meetings and posted weekly updates on the About Us section of our https://www.unitylansing.org website.
Please also see the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions.
Our next town hall meeting is scheduled for February 2, 2020 after the Sunday service
Frequently Asked Questions Post Fire
January 17, 2020
What caused the fire?
On Sunday morning Sept 8th, 2019 a fire started from an arc in an electrical junction box between the floors under Reverend Sharon’s office and the kitchen ceiling. This began the long road to where we are today. The Board of Trustees now meets twice a month to handle the additional tasks created by our current situation.
What were the first things we had to do with the burned building?
Secure building - Board up broken windows, secure broken doors. The Lansing Fire Department contacted McCardle Restoration to perform this function after the fire was extinguished.
Mitigate building – Standard safety procedure following a major fire is to mitigate for hazardous materials like lead paint, before starting cleanup. After considering various mitigation companies, we decided to hire McCardle Restoration to perform this function since this was the company that the Lansing Fire Department contacted to secure the building.
How did we decide where to meet for Sunday service?
Because of location & availability we decided to use the facilities at The Fledge for Sunday service. Although several churches and the Allen Street Community Center offered spaces, those options would only be available for a few months or would have required a change to our time of service. It was preferable to stay as close to our current building as possible for both offices and services.
Where will we go for office space and meetings?
To keep the office space as close to the building as possible, ultimately, we found rental property at 1426 E. Michigan Ave across from the Soup Spoon. Originally our thought was to use a trailer, and so we had one delivered to the Holmes Street property. However, it was ultimately removed. Below are the details of that undertaking:
September 17th A temporary office trailer was delivered to 230 S. Holmes Street. Arrangements were made for hookups for electrical and internet.
September 26th A Building permit was obtained for the trailer so that electrical and other services could be hooked up (Application for permit attached). Temporary offices became fully functional Oct. 4th.
October The temporary office trailer was red-tagged by the city October 25th, 2019, meaning we could no longer occupy the trailer until we made it handicap accessible and had it inspected. A neighbor had filed a complaint that we were holding services at the trailer which required these additional steps. We now understand that classes or gatherings can be considered “services”. Functions for our offices were moved to the National Association of Social Workers’ offices.
November USCL received a notice from the city giving us two weeks to remove the temporary office trailer from the premises as we are located in a residential neighborhood and a trailer can only be parked in a residential neighborhood for a maximum of two weeks. (We could have gone to the city to request a variance. There would have been no guarantee of receiving one, so we decided to comply and began looking for other office space.) We temporarily used the offices at the National Association of Social Workers for the five-week period until we were able to resettle into new office space at 1426 E. Michigan Ave.
Should we stay or go?
A group of individuals questioned whether moving to another location might be a better option than staying and rebuilding. That group was charged with obtaining information on what the current market figures were for a similar size building in Lansing, including operating cost such as utilities and maintenance, and to also determine what the cost of demolishing the current building would be, etc. A Town Hall meeting on November 10thwas held so that any information collected could be presented. This way members would have time to think over the possibilities until the vote on November 24th.
What do our bylaws say about spending the insurance money?
Since USCL was operating under a membership vote to build an addition onto the 230 S. Holmes Street building, a special members’ meeting was scheduled for a new membership vote on how to use the insurance money. We contacted Unity Worldwide Ministry for direction on how to properly word the ballot and in which order votes should be taken should we need to vote on several motions.
What was the outcome of the vote?
71 of our 89 members attended the meeting. The motion to use the insurance money to restore the existing building carried the following votes: 55 yes, 15 no and 1 abstaining. Since the 55 of the 71 members present voted yes (more than 2/3rds of the members present, which our bylaws stipulate is needed to pass), the motion was adopted and no further motions or votes were required.
What does the city Zoning & Planning Boards require of us in order to restore our building?
Because our building was damaged just over 50% of its value and we are currently classified as Class “B” Nonconformity, we were required to apply for a Class “A” Nonconforming Status in order to restore and add on to our church home. The current city requirement is to have parking spots available for 1/3 the seating capacity (100/3=33.3 parking spaces – we have 23). We submitted the paperwork for this status classification change and were scheduled for the January 7th 2020 Planning Board agenda for approval.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, 4 USCL members in disagreement with the outcome of the majority vote to restore the existing building, provided misinformation to the Planning Board. This misinformation, which contradicted the information we provided to the Planning Board, gave cause to the board to table the decision until the February 4th Planning Board meeting. USCL Board has submitted a letter to both city boards to clarify the misinformation information.
Where do we go from here?
So that we are prepared, the USCL Board has interviewed a couple of architects and has a construction manager available for consultation to guide us through this unknown process. However, until we have the proper classification from the city, we cannot go any further. We are awaiting the decision of the Planning Board, which is scheduled to meet on February 4th.
Please see the About Us “Journal” section of the https://www.unitylansing.org website for updates.
Next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for February 2, 2020.
 In 2019, USCL welcomed 8 new members (The last four members did not go through the Unity 101 class before the vote due to a class cancelation because of inclement weather – however the class is not a bylaw mandatory requirement), which brought our member count at the time of the vote to 89.
Week 19-20 January 6th - 19th
Tuesday, Jan. 7th, the City PLanning Board held a public hearing on Unity's request for a rezoning from Class "B" Nonconformity which limits the amount of money that can be put into a building for restoration/repair to 50% of the building value prior to the damage to a Class "A" Nonconforming status that would allow repair in excess of 50% of the value of the building. Eleven members were in attendance with four members speaking against allowing this change. The City Planning Board tabled Unity's request. The next Planning Board Meeting is the first Tuesday in February.
Thursday, Jan. 9th, the Lansing Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to hear Unity's proposal, but the meeting was cancelled due to illness.
Monday, January 6th, there was a walkthrough of 230 S. Holmes to evaluate the remediation. The interior has beens sprayed with a sealer to contain and lingering smell. Some of the smell can not be contained until charred beams and windows are replaced during a restoration process. The areas impacted have been marked with red and black spray paint. For example, there is a space between the wood framing and the brick exterior in the administration office area. The wood framing will not come down until a restoration phase. Also, several support beams as well as the encasement around the windows still emit an odor. These items/areas will eventually be removed and replaced.
The Board has scheduled a Townhall for Sunday, February 2nd to keep everyone up-to-date on all happenings.
Week 16 and 17, December 22nd - January 5th
The entire building has been sprayed with the sealer to eliminate any final smoke smell. We will be doing a final walk through on remediation the week of January 6th.
Week 15, December 15th - 21st, 2019
The remediation process is complete. The wood in the building has been sealed which eliminates any lingering smell of smoke. We will be a final walk through on the remediation process the first of the year. Meanwhile we will enter into the holyday season with a deep sense of gratitude for having reached this milestone in our recovery.
Week 14, December 8th - 14th
Monday we did a walk through. We discovered the brick used in the building was Unity Brick!
As McCardel finishes the cleanup, they "smoked" the property this week. This removes the smell between the pieces of wood and other crevices they don't reach in their cleaning.
Next week, they will begin sealing all of the wood to eliminate the last of the smoke odor.
And our office Landlord is making some much needs repairs! New front window. "For Sale" sign gone.
Report from McCardel:
All demo is complete. All cleaning is complete. Ducts cleaned. Furnace running. Fogging is complete. Sealing of the substructure has been started which is the final step in the process. Anticipating completion by end of week of December 15th.
Odor wise it was very faint after the fogging and I am confident the sealing of the substructure will remedy this.
THE THREE MONTH MARK
Week 13, December 1st - 7th
The trailer was removed from the parking lot at 230 S. Holmes Street. The Unity offices are now fully functional at 1426 E. Michigan Avenue. Phone number remains the same 517.371.3010
The dumpsters have also been removed as the interior of 230 S. Holmes has been cleaned out. Next week we will do a walk through as McCardel completes it's sealing process.
Week 12, November 25th - December 1st
The insulation from the sanctuary ceiling was removed this week. The new step will be a "smoking" to remove the lingering smoke smell. This will be followed by a sealing procedure to contain any remanants of smoke smell even in the most hot and humid conditions.
Rev. Sharon and Cindy toured the items in storage in preparation for moving them to the new office space. This is a large and daunting task to review inventory and to supply a list to the insurance company of content losses.
Pictured below is the sanctuary, the offices and the view from the side entryway.
Week 11 November 18th - 24th
McCardel Report: All of the large demo is completed down to the studs including the entire sanctuary. Next week will be a lot of cleanup than doing spot demo’ing along with nail removal. By Friday, we should be starting the cleaning of the sub structure ( studs, floor, joists, rafters etc). There will be a team out there all next week minus Thanksgiving
The church offices were relocated to 1426 E. Michigan Avenue, a couple of blocks from our current location. The offices have a back ramp for anyone with mobility challenges. There is some work to do - painting the main room and getting organized, but the space should serve us well. We are renting it on a month-to-month basis. Next week, Rev. Sharon will review items in storage which have been reclaimed from the fire.
During the demolition of the inside of 230 S. Holmes, two surprises - the wall behind the podium was originally built with three arches and light inbetween. And on the lower level, outside of the women's bathroom, a painting was discovered in the ceiling. It looks like a painting on a 4X8 piece of wood was repurposed for flooring from another building.
Week 10 November 10th - 17th
We have found a temporary office space to rent on a month to month basis at 1426 S. Michigan Avenue, a couple blocks from the church and The Fledge. It needs some TLC. We will start moving things around Wednesday and anticipate being fully functional the week of November 24th.
The inner demolition on 230 S. Holmes is moving along and we are reaching the point when it transitions from the aftermath of a disaster to the promise of possibilties. The first picture is as you enter the side door. You can see from one end of the building to the other. The sanctuary and office spaces are about half way cleaned out. The Boys from McCardel told us how neighbors have stopped by and thanked them for the work they are doing. Last completion estimate is December 13th.
Week 9 November 3rd - 10th
Unity received its official notice from the City of Lansing to remove the trailer that was being used for temporary offices and weekday meeting spaces. We were given an extension on the two week notice until December 2md, though we are hoping to be resettled before Thanksgiving. The search is on for the best solution to replace the needs fulfilled by the trailer. McCardel continues to gut the building. We anticipate receiving the inventory of items which have been saved and items which were written off by November 8th.
Week 8 October 27th - November 3rd
McCardel continues in their 4 week process to "Gut" the building. They are currently tearing up the damaged hardwood floor in the sanctuary.
The City of Lansing has red-tagged our mobile offices and given us 14 days to move the trailer from the property due to zoning violations. We are looking for alternative office and weekday meeting space.
Currently our Administrative Assistant, Jessica Shelton, is housed at the NASW Office (National Association of Social Workers) at 741 North Cedar (The ManPower Building). We just received the data from the office computer and various backup drives on Friday so will be working on combing through what is necesary to keep.
The Board of Trustees have authorized the $1000 expenditure to restore the stain glass art piece from the sanctuary. We are releasing the other damaged art pieces from around the building, including the 12 powers drawing, the dove, the angel, etc.
Week 7 October 20th - 27th
This week, HBC finished the abatement of the building. A temporary roof was installed over the minister's office. Next week, McCardel will begin demolishion which will take about a month.
Friday, We were 'red tagged" out of our mobile offices, but we are anticipating getting everything up to code as quickly as possible.
Administration office looking through to minister's office
Looking into minister's office with open roof
Debris from minister's office.
Lower Level - wall supports to kid's room
Lower Level facing the kitchen
Week 6 October 13th - 20th
Unity Offices are fully functioning - internet, phones, printers, computers, drinking water, etc.
We are still refining systems for what goes to the Fledge for Sundays and what stays there week to week. Rachel has worked on tuning the piano Unity has taken to the Fledge. One more tuning next week and it should be good to go.
Prayer letters from Unity churches and ministers continue to pour in as well as some tithe checks to help us with extra expenses. We are truly blessed.
HBC worked on abating the building. They will finish that next week.
Brotherhood insurance has sent Unity a check to cover the cover of McCardel's work to date as well as HBC's work.
Townhall Agenda October 13, 2019
- Update on Contents Mitigation
Items have been emptied from building. Some have been taken to clean and store, most has been sent to trash. Inventory Forms: we will be asking congregation to help review
- Update on Insurance Building Restoration – Maximum of $650,000: Loss valued at $305,523 less depreciation of $67.742 for initial payment of $237,280 Monies can be used to rebuild or to purchase something new. If we didn’t rebuild current building, we would have to invest on demolition and restoring the land. Also, we would not receive depreciation which is about 20% of the estimated lost.. Mitigation and abatement of building also comes under this heading. 3. Loss of Facility Coverage- maximum of $50,000
Offices approximately $1000/month plus trailer and utility setup costs
Sunday services $250/week plus supportive repairs
Week 5 October 6th - 12th Our "Land Yachet" is Unity branded!!!
We have signage added to our Mobile offices. Every day we become more and more functional. Still a long way to go in recreating files and forms but we are moving in the right direction.
Initial insurance check received from Brotherhood for building - $237,280.95. Actual replacement amount is $305,523.81 and there is a $67.742.86 depreciation amount applied.
We have a path to claim recoverable depreciation if we intend to complete repairs and claim depreciation. We also have an opening should we discover additional damage. This will be reviewed by the board of trustees at their meeting Monday, October 14th. There is also another quote coming in from the insurance company to confirm estimated restoration costs.
- Winterization: McCardeI winterized the plumbing. As for the furnace, McCardel will hold off on getting that up and running until the brunt of the demo and deodorization has been completed ( In order to not cause any damage to our furnace it MUST be cleaned heavy before turning on )
- All contents have now been removed from the building except for the minister's office which is not stabelized yet.. Carpets have been removed. Dumpster taken by Grainger and a new one was delivered.
- Sun Glo contractors have come back with some sub-contactors to look at the building as they put together a comparison restoration bid for the insurance company,
- Mobile Offices: electricity, phones, internet, heat, toilet, printers and copier all functioning. Magnetic Sign ordered for the trailer door. Skirting to trailer will be added in near future.
- Sunday services:
- a. We have purchased a drum set for $450. This is being left at the Fledge. At the end of our time there, we can either sell if and recoup the money or give it to the Fledge.
- b. We also delivered a piano that was donated to us by strangers. Rachel will be tuning it. This we will also leave with the Fledge.
- c. Looking at purchasing a more powerful powerpoint projector that can eventually be used back at our location. Steve Edwards is checking into this.
- d. Also, we are purchasing a couple of microphones for better quality sound. These will be transported back and forth each Sunday.
- Ron is spending one hour /week cleaning the trailer and his other three hours are spent at the Fledge cleaning.
- Jerry Podany has done some repairs at the Fledge (handrailing, bathroom door lock, etc.) as well as installed the new safe at the trailer. WE also arranged to have the gas stove hooked up at the Fledge so it is fully functional Pictures: Sanctuary (blue on floor is anti-mold powder - all carpet has been removed.) Drum platform, Minister's office which can not be emptied until building is shored up for safety of crew, fellowship room, activity area outside of sanctuary and ceiling of kitchen.
Week Four, October 1st - 7th
Tuesday, Oct. 1st: We have our building permit for the trailer. Chris Blackburn, electrical inspector, will file his inspection approval of our electrical hookup installed by JC Electric with BWL Tuesday morning. BWL will then schedule us for hookup though Karen Carter from BWL can give us no indication of when it might happen. She said they are "pretty quick" but I could not get her to say is that meant days or weeks. Once electricity is connected, we will reschedule installation of phones, internet, copier networking, toilet facility,
Wednesday, Oct. 2nd: We are scheduled for electrical hookup. Affirming this is so!
Week THREE, September 23rd- 30th
The upper level has been emptied except for the minister's office which is currently unsafe. McCardel will shore up the ceiling and then they will empty that office.
As of Wednesday, we are still waiting for the electrical inspector so we can hook up the trailer for lights, toilet, etc.
We did add carpets in the two offices. Starting to look like we are living there.
Sep 27, 2019, 10:37 AM (15 hours ago)
WEEK TWO September 16th -23rd
Day 8 Monday, September 16th
Monday morning Jessica and Rev. Sharon met with the inventory and mitigation crew and did a walk through. Pointed out the Hodany stained glass, the cymbals, etc. Gave them instructions to look for the crystals balls, though Jessica found a number of them in the ashes.
Day 9, Tuesday, September 17th
Updated from McCardel - our Mitigation Company:I just wanted to keep you updated on what is happening with the team and the progress.
I had Bob Schultz from ERS come out yesterday to look at the stained glass, art, and electronics. He will be back with his team on Wednesday to take down the stained glass and get the ball rolling with restoring it. He is the owner of the company and will be overseeing that portion of the project personally.
He looked throughout the minister's office to see if he could find the hard drive to her computer and reported that unfortunately, he was unable to locate it.
The other computers will be taken for data recovery.
The team is concentrating on the west side of the building right now on inventorying, and disposing of contents in order to make way for our reco team to come in and get that roof shored up. We had a lighter crew today but will have full crews out there for the rest of the week.
I will keep you updated with progress and any updates to items we find or any answers I get on the art, electronics, etc. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call.
Thanks so much and we’ll talk soon. Kind Regards, Tami Bosworth Restoration Production Manager
The trailer for offices and a meeting room was delivered today. JC Electric and Steve from BWL will meet at Unity on Wednesday, September 18th to determine how to hook up the electric. Comcast is schedule to hook up service tomorrow afternoon. Once electric is hooked up, a service connected with the trailer retental company will return to the trailer to hook up bathroom facilities. Then a skirt will be added to the trailer as a finishing touch. The trailer has stairs but no handicap ramp. To install a handicap ramp would have cost $15,000 for a year. Our limit on reimbursement is $50,000. Since we have no idea on how long we will be out of the our building, Rev. Sharon decided it would be advisable not to incurr this expense at this time. Since our current building did not offer this kind of access, it is hard to justify to insurance as this would be an upgrade.
DAY TEN, September 18th
TRAILER PROJECT - estimated to be fully functional early next week
ELECTRICITY: JC Electric met with Jerry Wheeler from BWL about getting electricity to the trailer. BWL has to install a new pole so this won't be done till Friday.
Day 0 September 8th At approximately 6:00 am, a passerby called the Lansing Fire Department to report a fire at Unity Spiritual Center of Lansing. Christine Clements who lives next door to the church, called Rev. Sharon to advise her of the situation at the church. Rev. Sharon arrived shortly before 7:00 am. The building was cordaned off but the Fire Inspector took Rev. Sharon and a few other people through the building and helped us retrieve the safe, the coin jar, and a tithe check for Suicide Prevention.
This became a major story on local TV and newspaper reporting. Neighbors gathered in support as well as area churches - the Pilgrim Congregational, the People's Church in East Lansing and the Unitarians - to name a few. Prayer support from Unity churches and ministers around the world began by 7:00 am and grew as the word spread. Phone calls were made to the Board members and members who lived farthest away.
The fire teams left the scene about 10:30 am. Shortly after, those at the Center gathered in a prayer circle in the parking lot to give thanks in deep gratitude for the blessings we had already received, appreciation that no one was hurt, and affirming the positive process going forward. Fellowship Team members scheduled for that day - Hope Dixon and Chris McEnhill had food for anyone wanting a snack, Throughout the day, church members stopped by to see what needed to be done.
Miracle #1: Because it was in the midst of shift change, double fire trucks and teams were deployed to Unity - 9 trucks and 18 plus fireman. The firemen risked their lives to save our building.
Miracle #2: Due to the timing and the skilled work of these teams of firepersons, the structural integrity of the sanctuary was saved. This was helped because of the dry wall installed on the sanctuary ceiling last year when we made the repairs. The drywall has a fire retardant quality. If the dry wall was not there, it is likely we would have lost the whole structure.
Miracle #3: Offers of assistance started pouring in immediately. By 8:30, the Fledge had offered Unity use of their sanctuary on Sunday mornings for as long as needed.
Day 1 Monday September 9th
Rev. Sharon talked with our Insurance company Brotherhood Mutual, We have more than adequate coverage for the bulding, building contents, loss of use expenses (temporary housing) and personal belongings. We were assigned Mark Long as our claims manager and his assistant Greg Nowak as the point of contact person locally. Deposit of donations made at the bank.
Board President Dan Maynard, called a special board meeting to put plans into place. It was decided to use the Fledge for Sunday services and to investigate renting a trailer to be placed on the Unity properity for office space and small group meetings during the week, Greg Dening was assigned to get new computers. Greg Edwards was assigned to obtain new printers and a photocopier.
Day 2 Tuesday September 10th
Rev. Sharon met with Insurance Assessor Greg Nowak. They did a walkthrough of thebuilding along with Administration Team Lead Jerry Podany and Addition Project Lead Nanette Podany.
Next step will be remediation and inventory. This is something we hire a company to do because of the danger. It is important to get this done ASAP to let the building dry out so we don't get a mold issue.
This morning, Jessica and Rev. Sharon removed all the files in the lateral filing cabinets (employee records, contracts, etc.) They are in bins in Sharon’s garage drying out. They also found several of the crystal balls (very black) and the box with membership forms. Bookstore books are written off. (Yuck) etc Music team - Jeff, John, Steve and Razz met at the Fledge to look at the sound setup. Because it is open communal space, anything we leave there may end up being used by others. Jeff will bring his electronic keyboard this week and we have the holder for it from Unity. (Christine was gracious enough to clean it off.) Rachel (Our new choir director) found a spinet for $50. If it is in decent shape, we will purchase that and leave it at the Fledge. Steve and Razz are looking for a cheap drum set we can also leave here. We won't purchase a new drum set, piano and electronic keyboard until we are ready to move back to 230 S. Holmes. Steve is not here this week, but he will be next week. We did remove the 6 music stands from the sanctuary and Christine helped clean them. John Loose retrieved the guitar holders and will clean them. David Winkelstern is loaning us two mikes for better sound quality for this week.l
This week's service may not be as smooth as usual. Not sure about powerpoint as it is on the floor pointed up right in the middle of the podium. It may be different, but will be meaningful.
This afternoon Rev. Sharon met with McCardel and signed contracts for them to inventory and mitigate. They estimated it would take about three weeks. They take care of the deductible on our insurance policy.
We did a walk through the building. The rafters in minister’s office are coming down due to weight of rain water on roof. They swept the water off the roof but until they prop up the beams there is no way to keep the rain out.
Rev. Sharon meeting them there Monday to begin the inventory. They will clean Steve's cymbals but also pay for replacement as the heat has damaged them. They will take special care with the stained glass piece to get it restored. Some of the lower level artwork can be restored. We can retain the two ladders and the corel dishes and silverware but basically consider everything else gone. If there is something in particular, let Rev. Sharon know ASAP. They will try to get info off the computer hard drives. They will store the things they clean until we are ready for them.
Sep 27, 2019, 10:37 AM (15 hours ago)