By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Board of Public Works voted on Monday night to hold off on any action regarding the future of Hillside Cemetery’s Vaughn-Hansen Memorial Chapel until May of 2016, hoping that in the interim funds can be raised to address the significant maintenance needs of the chapel.
The city had considered demolishing the building because it has not been used recently and because it will require significant investment to return to viability for public use. The chapel has endured extensive water damage, and several aspects of the building need to be updated, improved, or replaced entirely. City Administrator Steve Barg said the chapel had not been used in the previous three years, and Hillside Cemetery Coordinator Mike Baltus said that it has seen little use in his 15 years working at the cemetery.
Baltus said the original cost to construct the building was about $56,000 and the chapel was donated by the Vaughn and Hansen families. The chapel now costs the city about $4,000 a year to maintain.
Myron Silberman, one of the original architects of the chapel, which was dedicated in 1977, said he has been working with the Vaughn family, which is interested in establishing a fund at the Marshfield Area Community Foundation to help pay for maintenance needs. Total repairs for the chapel are estimated to cost around $100,000.
The chapel had been used as a location for graveside services in past years. Silberman also contends that the Vaughn and Hansen families initially set up a fund with $25,000 for continued maintenance of the chapel, but the city said it has no record of ever having received that money.
“If these funds were given when the chapel was built, they were likely put in the perpetual care fund, where they may have been used over time for related maintenance,” said an email from Barg to Silberman.
Public works board member and Alderman Ed Wagner said that it was important to make an effort to save the chapel because it was a gift from citizens.
“If we were to take that building down, it would send a really, really awful signal to anybody else who is making a donation of any kind to the city in the future,” Wagner said. “We need to demonstrate to the public that we are taking care of those gifts that are given to us in good faith.”
It is possible that if and when enough funds are raised to restore the chapel, it could serve as a columbarium moving forward.
“I do not want to see this gift to the city dishonored in any way shape or form,” Wagner added.