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July 2017 Session Update On BEAR Status

Members of DPC,

Our building expansion and renovation project has progressed steadily now for more than five years. Session voted in May 2016 that it is committed to the project presented by the BEAR committee which focuses on expansion of the sanctuary and chancel areas, the addition of a narthex-gathering area, as well as numerous other long-overlooked upgrades and improvements aimed at improving the basic safety, accessibility and “welcomeness” of our campus. The project has overcome major hurdles with the Montgomery County Historic Commission, and in finding a solution for an expanded septic system. The remaining significant challenge relates to finding a solution to fund the project’s budget gap. In order to make sure we understand the complete project cost, Session authorized the completion of the construction documents, as well as the work to be done to file for a construction permit and obtain bids. The construction documents have been completed, and the permit application was filed in early June. Over the next few months, we will receive and respond to questions from the County and should be in a position to seek bids by this coming September.

The BEAR team and the Stewardship Committee are currently exploring several options to close the funding gap, taking into account feedback from the Congregation last year. To date, the project has spent $732,000 over five years including the costs of hiring the capital campaign consultant. The current estimate for construction and all related costs for the project going forward is $5.4M. This includes a construction contingency as well as costs for septic and HVAC systems which we believe will be reduced. Pledges from the Capital Campaign total $2.3M with an additional $34,000 given but not pledged. Internal funds available for possible use or internal loan include the investment fund of $1.2M and the Knighten fund of $504,000 (although no decisions have been made about the use of these funds). We might be able to seek loans from members, and might also consider a second capital campaign. These ideas and groundwork will be presented to our interim pastor and further considered by Session in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Session has authorized work in several areas that will help prepare us for possible BEAR construction. The BEAR project is focused on the west end of campus and the sanctuary (Phase One of the Master Plan). We can now make investments in the east end and the Manse because we know it will likely be 15 years or even more before we would be able to implement Phase Two of the Master Plan in those areas. To this end, we are working on some upgrades to the Manse that will result in two “nice-sized” classrooms, and have already been working on upgrades to Fellowship Hall. We are in the process of negotiating a new long-term lease with the school which will cover the cost of the Manse project. The school will need these Manse classrooms during any BEAR construction, and upgrades to Fellowship Hall are not only long-overdue, but would make that space feel more appropriate for worship during construction as well.

The work to be done in the cemetery must be completed in advance of BEAR construction. Unfortunately, this is a prerequisite to create room for any expansion of the sanctuary or chancel, now or in the future, because the Historic Commission would not approve any other proposed alternative impacting the historic sanctuary. The Cemetery Committee has completed the research for this project and is putting together a project plan to complete the relocation of 44 graves. The project plan will include time spent working to locate and notify relatives of the deceased impacted by the planned moves.

Session continues to work hard to lay the groundwork for continued ministry in our community for many years to come, and very much needs your continued, active involvement and support. We ask for your continued prayers, patience and feedback as each and all of us continue to consider and plan for the future of our church.

May God continue to richly bless Darnestown Presbyterian Church,

DPC Session



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