New Bedford to help save historic church steeple - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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New Bedford to help save historic church steeple

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by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

mcurtis@abc6.com

Brighter days may be ahead for New Bedford's historic First Baptist Church.

The church was in the forefront of abolishing slavery and civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass attended services here.

The guidelines for public debate, known as "Roberts Rules of Order" were written here.

"Those Roberts Rules of Order govern virtually every public meeting in the United States and in many other Western countries so it happened here," said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell.

But the steeple on the church has fallen badly into disrepair and is falling apart.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "There is also a public safety concern during high–wind storms such as Irene and Sandy, debris from the steeple has blown down to the street below."

So the city of New Bedford has placed a $35 thousand dollar lien on the building - that's the estimated cost of fixing and saving the steeple.

"We're taking steps now to ensure both public safety and historic preservation, to do something about it. We've been looking at the church. We just can't sit there and watch it deteriorate," said Mayor Mitchell.

Aside from church services on Sunday, the building is also used temporarily for a local community health program.

Leaders are applauding the restoration.

Tom Couhig of Fellowship Health Resources said, "All the ecumenical places in New Bedford date back to pre–whaling time or right at that time, when this community was really in it's hey day."

City contractors will begin shoring up the steeple, later this week.

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