City Codes condemns Archway building

The city has condemned the Archway Ministries church building for health and safety violations, including a “major” infestation of rats and mice, electrical overloads, makeshift heating, items obstructing clear passage in hallways and an illegal occupancy.

“The building is in deplorable condition,” said Codes Director Rebecca Brown on Monday. “It’s a mess.”

Lou Grillo, pastor of the ministries and principal of the organization that owns the building, Property Express LLC, minimized the issues.

“It will be cleared up shortly,” Grillo said. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the building that can’t be taken care of in a week or two.”

The codes department received several complaints, beginning a couple of weeks ago, Brown said.

Her office contacted various individuals connected with the church before finding one who let code and fire inspectors in on Friday, Brown said.

The sanctuary isn’t in bad shape, she said.

But another area in which there is an office and a food pantry showed evidence of the vermin infestation, including “a large presence of mouse and rat droppings all over the (packaged) food,” Brown said.

There were also exposed wiring and light fixtures hanging out of the walls and six freezers with power supplied by extension cords, all of which were plugged into a single power strip, she said.

Because the furnace in the building wasn’t working, a “turbo heater” — unsafe for indoors — was being used for warmth, Brown said.

Upstairs, the hallways were clogged with “junk and debris,” which would have made it difficult to get through in an emergency, Brown said.

There was also someone living upstairs illegally, along with a dog, she said.

There were no smoke detectors and no emergency lighting, Brown added.

“The building is definitely in such a condition that we cannot permit the public to enter the property as it stands,” she said.

Grillo has received punch lists from the fire inspector and codes office and intends to correct the items they identify, he said.

It’s an exaggeration to call the vermin problem an “infestation,” because that implies swarming vermin, and all the inspectors saw was droppings, Grillo surmised. Moreover, there were no rats or rat droppings, he said.

The hanging wires were “pigtails” representing the aftermath of a problem last year from a burst pipe, he said.

“We didn’t put the fixtures back,” he stated.

The propane heater was being used because the furnace — which had malfunctioned, but which began working again after repairs — subsequently developed a heat exchanger leak and had to be shut down again, he said.

A worker hopes to fix the problem with “stop-leak,” he said.

The person living in the building had been working for the church and staying there off and on, especially when his work ran late, Grillo said.

That same person was also doing the ministries a favor by “keeping an eye” on the building as a hedge against vandalism — as there had been some broken windows previously, Grillo said.

The condemnation has led to many calls from church supporters offering help and asking “what can we do to get that sign taken down,” Grillo said.

Their help is welcome, he said.

Maybe the city “kind of did me a little bit of a favor,” he added. “I’m going to take the negative and turn it around.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.