It has now been several months since we announced the halt of construction on the new church due to discovery of financial malfeasance by our contractor. We have spent these months working closely and coordinating with our attorneys, with various contracting and engineering firms, as well as with the church designer Andrew Gould, and we are finally ready to share an update on everything as well as the current outlook for continuation of the work.
Firstly, regarding the legal situation: although our former contractor sent us a letter disputing his termination and demanding a frankly absurd and exorbitant sum of money at the beginning of August, we have not heard another word from him or his attorneys since, nor have they responded to any of the numerous attempts of our attorneys to contact them in turn. The deadline has now passed for him to file a lien on our property (and the position of our attorneys is that such a lien would have been fraudulent anyway), and we can only guess that he knows his legal position is completely untenable and does not intend to take any action against us.
Nevertheless as we had been threatened with such action in August, under the advice of counsel we hired an expert construction analyst to evaluate the financial aspect of the work performed to date. His finding was that our former contractor owes us $200,000 for work not performed (in other words, half of our initial deposit) as well as over $70,000 in payments we were forced to make to his subcontractors and vendors for our job which he himself repeatedly failed and refused to pay. Because this money was not only sourced from our own funds but also donated by our friends and benefactors, after prayer and reflection we feel that we ought to take whatever viable steps are available to us to attempt to recover these funds. We will continue to work toward this and will issue an update when we can.
But of course the most pressing task at hand is to resume construction on the church. To that end we have been in talks with two major construction firms based in West Virginia, both of which come highly recommended by many reputable businesses and community members. Although neither has experience in building an Orthodox church (one of the main reasons we went with the original contractor), nevertheless both are highly competent firms with many resources available to them, and Andrew Gould feels confident that with his help and supervision they would each be more than able to navigate the particularities of our church architecture.
However, in the course of tests and measurements performed by one of these firms on the current construction site, it was discovered that the walls are not square and that the masonry has some serious flaws (these measurements were subsequently confirmed by an independent engineering firm). Obviously we will need to remediate this situation before we can continue construction. Upon discovering the degree of the defect our attorneys notified our former contractor's insurer of a potential claim, and are optimistic that the additional expense involved will be covered. However this requires the insurance company to conduct an investigation on the claim, and we have therefore extended them a window of time in which the construction site will be preserved as-is in order for them to come and make any inspections necessary. Once that window closes later this month, we will begin remediation work immediately as weather permits. It is also still our hope to make at least some progress toward completing the footers and bringing everything up to grade this year as well.
Obviously this situation has been very painful and difficult for everyone, and it is quite clear that the enemy of our salvation absolutely does not want this church to be built. Nevertheless we know beyond doubt that God's providence is governing everything, and we have firm faith that He Himself will arrange everything in the best possible way for our salvation and for the spiritual benefit of everyone involved. We are very thankful that the financial misdoings were discovered when they were, especially since also finding out that the entire church would otherwise have been built improperly had things continued on.
Last Thursday on the Feast of the Kazan Icon, we prayed a moleben asking the Mother of God for Her help and intercession in this matter, and beginning this week every Friday at noon we will serve a moleben in place of Sixth Hour asking God to bless and guide this work going forward. We invite everyone who wishes to do so to join us in this prayer service, which will be livestreamed along with all our other church services.
Again, we extend our sincerest apologies for this situation to all of our benefactors and supporters, and we fervently ask for everyone's continued prayers for wisdom and divine aid in bringing this much-needed new temple to completion. May God bless you all!
Archimandrite Seraphim & Brotherhood