Property Committee Update – 12/02/2020

First Churches of Northampton

Work towards creating a 30-bed homeless shelter:

Under the leadership of Pastor Todd, Melinda, and Bill, our church’s social facilities have transitioned from three furnished rooms into a 30-bed homeless shelter. We were enabled by motivated church members, United Way volunteers, and building contractors who were willing to interrupt their busy schedules.

The City of Northampton and ServiceNet provided a clear vision of what a shelter should look like along with two months’ rent up front.  In three weeks we completed the necessary work with just hours to spare before the first resident arrived at 4pm, Friday, Dec 4. The first storm of the winter season arrived just hours later. There remain many odds and ends to be accomplished but the residents seem pleased and thankful.

1.     Parlor


Door inserted between Parlor sliding pocket doors. Fireplace and sink area encased in dry board. Cots for up to 9 women installed. All cots, furnishings and tables used by the shelter were supplied thru ServiceNet. All hardwood floors are covered with taped three-foot widths of moisture resistant RAMboard.

2.     Lyman Hall


Lyman Hall is now designated as the “Common Room” with the shelter staff stationed by the Center Street entrance. Heavily used walkways are covered with black vinyl runner on top of RAMboard.

3.     Recreation Room


The Rec Room provided the greatest challenge with years of old AA

 materials moldering in dark corners. Some 300 lbs of old metal lockers were disassembled by United Way volunteers using a sledge hammer, cold chisel and “Sawzsall”. The completed space will hold up to 20 men’s cots.



4.     Men’s restroom.

Initial plans included upgrading to twin sinks, replacing toilets, and installing a new utility sink. The one additional item was an upgrade in plumbing to enable a future handicapped restroom in the Rec Room. The new “bladder assisted” toilets for women’s and men’s should be installed sometime early next week.

The left Rec Room closet shows the upgraded plumbing connections. The right closet has the new utility sink.

5.     Fire Inspection.

The fire inspection was passed after a walk-thru with the fire chief and a representative from Fire and Security Integrations.

The Fire System main panel and the security system main panel have been installed in a new room created behind the front two furnaces in the Sanctuary basement. We now need to install a locked box of building keys and a display of correctly labeled floor plans.

In case of fire this is the place the fire department will come to obtain information on fire location and the keys necessary to gain access to the fire.

6.     Building Inspection was passed.

The areas of the church to be used for shelter activities were inspected by Bill and Inspector Louis Hasbrouck. All the various “temporary” shelter alterations were discussed in addition to the activation by Louie of every fire egress device in sight! “Louie” knows our church well and provided Bill with insight into the complexities of the “grandfathering” of building code requirements for 130-year-old buildings.

With the right help we can possibly leverage the facility improvements we have just made into increased use (and rent) of the building. First, we need to document the historical uses of the church by the public to establish precedence. Second, we need to develop a vision of building use with a building improvement plan that has the correct balance of improvements and costs so that we are not subjected to additional building codes.

7.     Wireless system upgraded

Bill installed and hard-wired a new wireless router next to the Recreation Room. This router extends the “First Churches” network throughout the Sanctuary areas of the building. There are now a total of four routers in the building and an ethernet cable connection accessible from the sanctuary.

8.     Nest thermostat

An additional Nest thermostat was installed in the Recreation room. All three Nest thermostats in shelter areas were incased so they could be viewed but not changed. In consultation with shelter staff the thermostats will be programmed for 68 degrees, 24/7.

9.     Ventilation system

The ventilation system continues to be a work in progress trying to balance a healthy inflow of outside air against declining room temperature and inclining heating bills.

The window over the alley side door exit was easily removed intact and two 12” adjustable exhaust fans installed and held in place using the existing wood moldings. The fans create a flow of air thru Lyman Hall and the Recreation Room and may proof especially useful in the summer should we decide to keep them pending a successful permit application.

The Women’s bathroom has a motion and body heat activated variable speed 10” fan inserted in the top of the window.

All ventilation components are designed to be temporary in nature and can be completely removed.

~Bill and Melinda



Property Committee Update – 11/26/2020

Major work so far this week:

1. Furniture has been removed and RAMboard floor covering has been installed in Parlor and

Lyman Hall by United Way volunteers. This covering resists fluids and can be cleaned.

2. Dual sinks have been installed in existing vanity in Men’s bathroom. Awaiting plumbing


3. Ventilation system walk-through with Douglas Thayer. Will be installed next Tuesday for time

and materials. Existing wood supplies in basement will be used. Exhaust fans and intake vents

have been ordered and will arrive this Sunday.

4. Parlor fireplace, sink area and large china cabinet will be encased with drywall by Douglas, time

and materials

5. All hardware items have been ordered and picked up to include vinyl floor runners for high

traffic areas, CO detectors for bedrooms and utility sink for Recreation Room closet.

6. Key items for next week

a. Installation of temporary door between sliding doors in Parlor

b. Upgrade of Men’s room plumbing and plumbing of sinks

c. Replacement of toilets with modern “bladder-assist” units in both restrooms

d. Installation of motion-sensing vent fans in both restrooms

e. Extension of wireless network into Rec Room area

f. Inspection of new Fire System by fire department

g. Walk through with building inspector

Bill and Melinda


Updates 11/23/20


There are two significant changes in the budget.
1. Instead of spending $1,200 on fixing the flush mechanisms and wax rings of the old toilets in the Men’s and Women’s restrooms, we have decided to upgrade to six new “bladder-assisted” toilets for $3,600.  The new ones are much less prone to flooding than the old ones and are more similar to the commercial units found in businesses.
2. Due to the shortness of time and the uncertainty of the timing of events only one bid has been obtained from each type of contractor involved.  I regret this.  Covid 19 has also changed the price and availability of workers and materials in unpredictable ways.
The plumbing bid for the new restroom sinks appears very high.  However, the existing drain and drain vent piping have to be replaced because the present piping will only support one sink.  We have also asked for changes to be consistent for a handicapped bathroom to be installed in the Recreation Room in the future.
1. The projected day of Shelter startup is now Thurs Dec 3.   In preparation, I have photographed the leased spaces to document all the walls and items in place prior to moving them.
2. Sunday a group of four United Way volunteers reorganized existing storage in the unfinished sanctuary basement.  They moved the contents of the Rec Room into the unfinished basement and the contents of the Parlor and Lyman Hall into Rm 11 (the Nest)  The two large china cabinets were felt to be too fragile to move and will be “boxed” in place with plywood.  Two front Chapel pews were unscrewed from the floor on a temporary basis and placed on the stage facing outward.  This makes way for more flexible use of the Chapel based on church staff needs.
3. Today we had another walk-thru with the Dept of Health, ServiceNet, and the Fire Department.  Things seem to be going well.  I emphasized our agreement to make weekly inspections with the shelter director of all church areas to identify any trespass or damage to facilities.  The latest description of facilities use is:
   – Parlor will be used for 10-bed women’s shelter
   – Rec. Room used for 20-bed men’s shelter
   – Lyman’s Hall used as a common room with a 3-bed over-flow/emergency.
It would appear that this would make it easier for a staff of 3 day and 2 night to effectively manage.
4. Tomorrow the renovation of the Men’s restroom begins with the arrival of the new vanity and sings.  The carpenter involved will be asked to bid on installation of the air flow exhaust fans, intake window vent boxes, and restroom exhaust fans.
5. Messages have gone out to schedule electrical and plumbing.  A Fire System inspection will be arranged for early next week and our building inspector will be consulted on the changes occurring in the overall project.
6.Tomorrow a group of United Way volunteers will lay 2,600 sq ft of RAM board over the Parlor and Lyman hardwood floors.
7. Melinda will arrange the moving of the Parlor piano and remaining heavy items.
I attach the latest startup expense spreadsheet.
I so appreciate the continuing advice, support and enthusiasm from everyone.   Comments are welcome.
Bill and Melinda

Information Meeting on a Temporary Winter Shelter at First Churches


The City of Northampton and Service Net has approached First Churches to find suitable shelter for people who are homeless this winter.  We would like to inform and hear from you, so I am inviting you to a Question and Answer session after church this Sunday via Zoom at 10:45 AM.  If you are unable to attend, please send questions or concerns via email.  It would be best to copy both and, so the staff and Board have copies.


This project has been a fast timeline since cold weather is near, and other options have not materialized.  The first call came to me last Tuesday afternoon, November 3.  We had a feasibility walk-through Thursday afternoon with several Board and Property Team people from the Health, Building, Fire Departments, and the Mayor’s office.  They thought the space was viable, so we scheduled meetings this week with the Property Team on Monday and the Board on Tuesday.  We are hoping to decide at the Board meeting next Wednesday, November 18.  Our staff and leadership are working quickly to assess what we need to make the decision, and here is a quick overview of what we know.


The Plan


Service Net would rent Lyman Hall, the Parlor, the Recreation Room, and two offices in the basement from December 1 till May 1, 2021.  They will provide staffing for 30 guests.  The operation will be 24/7, so guests also have a place to be warm during the day.  Only guests who are signed up and tested every two weeks may enter.  The City Health Department will support Service Net, and Manna will deliver lunch and dinner.  Our potential partners operated the shelter at the high school in the Spring and have clear protocols to ensure everyone’s health and safety.  They only had one person COVID-infected, and it did not spread to other people.  We have plans to ensure the building is segmented and our staff is safe.


The Agreement


This email is a summary of a very detailed and complicated agreement we are developing with Service Net. Due to COVID, more significant resources are available to help with costs. They intend to offer the following to the church:

  • Rent to cover all costs of utilities, facilities, and overhead.
  • They will pay upfront and exit costs to get the space ready, such as moving furniture to safer places, covering our hardwood floors with protection and safety features.
  • They will place a security deposit.
  • Contingency funds are set aside for any repairs or damage that may occur from the operations.
  • The church is covered by Service Net liability insurance.
  • Service Net will contract a cleaning service for their area.
  • They will staff the program that will keep people and our building safe.


I’m sure you have dozens of questions and ideas, and I could fill several pages with details.  For now, the Board recommended I write to you today, so you have an overview.   We will have fuller information on Sunday.  You may notice that hosting a shelter until May 1 would make it very difficult to have in-person worship before that time.  According to protocols set by the UCC, it is not very likely we would resume regular worship before that time.  You probably know some congregations holding in-person services, but there are also widespread reports of churches becoming super-spreader sites.  I would be heartbroken if any of you died from COVID because you came to our church.  If we are fortunate enough that COVID is gone before May 1, we will partner with another downtown church to find a way to meet together.  It will be a joyous day when we can do that again.  In the meantime, I hope we can find a way to do some good with our building.


I appreciate our staff, Board, and property team for their skills and willingness to engage.  Everyone involved so far is committed to our mission to serve others, and our desire to keep our building a beautiful and sacred place.  We hope to be good stewards of all God has put in our hands and live the good news of God’s love and justice for everyone.


Pastor Todd