WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk Church Still Standing Despite Lifting of Temporary Injunction

Dec 7, 2017

The city of Keokuk said Wednesday afternoon that the demolition of the former Unitarian Church would get underway as soon as the firm hired to tear down the building is ready. This comes roughly 48 hours after a judge dissolved the temporary injunction blocking the demolition of the vacant, run-down church at the corner of 4th and High Streets.

District Court Judge John Linn ruled that the owner of the building, Christvision, did not follow proper procedures in obtaining the temporary injunction, which was granted by another judge on Nov. 14, seven days after Christvision petitioned the court to halt the construction.

The city of Keokuk did not receive official notice until after the temporary injunction was already in place.

Linn ruled that the city should have had a chance to request a hearing before the court prior to the temporary injunction being granted. He said that’s why he chose to dissolve it.

His ruling followed a roughly hour-long hearing on the status of the church and the plans to demolish/restore it.

The city repeatedly cited a judicial ruling from Dec. 2016 that said the church was dangerous. The order states that the owner of the building had until March 2017 to present the city with a plan to repair the building or the city could deal with the property as it saw fit.

Mayor Tom Marion, a former city attorney, represented Keokuk in the hearing. He also pointed out videos taken of the interior of the church by a city council member, though they were not played during the hearing.

Melanie Wells testified on behalf of Christvision that the church has new ownership and that it should be given time to raise the money needed to save the church. She said she is part of a small group of people that assumed control of the organization and paid for one year of insurance on the building.

Wells said they have volunteers lined up, ready to repair the church, which the city believes might not last another winter because of the holes in the roof and the shaky walls.

During cross examination, Wells said about $10,000 had been pledged for the project, with about $2,700 already on hand. She said estimates for the roof repair came in around $250,000.

There was a question raised during the hearing as to Wells’ connection to Christvision.

Marion said, during the hearing Monday afternoon, that she was not listed as the organization’s registered agent with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. But that’s no longer the case.

Wells is now listed as the registered agent and the members of Christvision’s board are:

  • President – David Romaine
  • Vice President – Melanie Wells
  • Secretary – Alexandria Woods
  • Treasurer – Ryan Miller

Following Linn’s ruling, Christvision applied for a new temporary injunction. It again cited the historic value of the structure and that could never be replaced if demolition occurred.

No further action has been scheduled regarding the injunction. It's also unclear if it has been served to the city of Keokuk.

The city has hired Keokuk Contractors to tear down the church at a cost of about $175,000.