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St. Paul Park church expansion collapses; improper construction cited

Christina Berg walks around the property of Household of Faith Church in St. Paul Park to take photographs of the collapsed construction. The framing toppled overnight Wednesday. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente2 / 2

A small St. Paul Park congregation's hopes to soon host worship and community meals in its new church were crushed, at least for the time being, when construction framing for its building expansion toppled due to improper construction.

Household of Faith Church members who were volunteering their time to build the addition had just spent Wednesday using a crane to place trusses on the structure. Walls were erected and the volunteer builders were planning to enclose the two-story building.

But it all collapsed overnight, leaving damaged walls, tangled trusses and heaved brickwork. Scaffolding was buried under the lumber.

"Wow," said a stunned Marty Berg Thursday afternoon as he stared at the damage at 1090 Chicago Ave., near Park Grove Bowl.

Berg is a deacon at the church and was helping with construction.

"It looks like a tornado went through here," he said.

Nobody was injured.

The structure collapsed due to improper construction, said Andy McLean, a building inspector with the city of Cottage Grove, which inspects for St. Paul Park.

McLean said a contractor who was working with the church suffered a heart attack earlier this week. Volunteers went ahead and installed the trusses a day later, but the walls were not properly secured, McLean said. The weight of the trusses caused the walls to give way.

"Luckily there was no one on site when this happened," McLean said.

The church passed its inspection for the building's foundation, but the next inspection would not have occurred until the framing was complete and electrical and other work finished, McLean said.

'Community effort'

Inspectors put a "stop work" order on the project until a contractor is hired to oversee the project.

Household of Faith members with a knack for building, including some retired construction professionals, were volunteering to build the addition. With a congregation of about 200 people, the church didn't have money to pay a construction company, one church member said, but it had professional help in designing the expansion and was getting the necessary permits, Berg said.

Congregants who weren't directly involved in the construction had been stopping by the site daily to feed their fellow church members.

"It's been a community effort," Berg said.

The expansion was to include a worship area and a commercial kitchen. Church leaders envisioned it being used to feed the community; area churches could take turns hosting meals in the soup kitchen.

"We were really looking forward to it," said Christina Berg, Marty Berg's sister and a fellow Household of Faith member.

Christina Berg took photographs of the damage Thursday, comparing the digital images to the shots she took a day earlier, when the structure started to resemble a church.

Marty Berg said it's not clear what the church's next step will be. He said he and other volunteer builders were very fortunate.

"Praise God it didn't happen yesterday," he said. "We were all inside it."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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