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Progress continues on restoration of downtown Tyrone church

Progress on restoration of the Christ United Methodist Church in Tyrone has moved to the point where “it shouldn’t be long” before the educational unit can be reopened.
That’s what church administrative assistant Sue O’Brien said earlier this week in a telephone interview. The church sanctuary suffered extensive damage and the education building was also damaged in an early June fire that authorities claim two teenagers set intentionally.
“Much is finished in the education building,” said O’Brien.
She noted painting and refinishing have been done and the floors are drying in that part of the church. The sealing of the walls has also been a part of the restoration process.
O’Brien said work has been started on the sanctuary, but there is “no time frame” on when that work will be finished.
Currently, the church is holding services at the old chapel at Epworth Manor. O’Brien said once the educational unit is ready; the plan is to hold services there while the sanctuary work is being completed. Church school activities would also be held in the education unit.
Work must also be done on the church’s roof, Those walking past the building at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street may have noticed scaffolding in place around the outside of the building as workers continue their repair efforts. Inside the sanctuary, a visitor would see it has been stripped of its pews and carpeting. Instead, one would see extensive scaffolding to allow workers to proceed with their restoration efforts.
As for the two teens accused of setting the church on fire, they will have to wait until at least next Wednesday to find out if they will be tried as adults or juveniles.
Last month, John Dively, deputy director of the Blair County Juvenile Probation office, told The Daily Herald the case was continued until the August date because attorney Steven Passarello, who represents one of the teens, had a scheduling conflict.
The two male teenagers accused of setting the fire had been released back to their parents in June and are awaiting next week’s hearing for certification to determine if they will be tried as adults or in the juvenile system.
One of the teens was 17 when several fires were set in the church. Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman previously said the Tyrone teen turned 18 just days after the fire. The other suspect is a 16-year-old boy. The names of the defendants have not been released since they were both juveniles at the time of the incident.
Gorman has been seeking to have their cases moved to adult court to face charges that include arson, burglary, reckless endangering another person, institutional vandalism and failure to prevent a catastrophe.
When the teens were released last month, Dively said the courts were required to release them since they had appeared before the judge without having the case move to trial at that point. Under the juvenile system the courts are required to hold a number of hearings once a suspect has been detained. The process includes a 72-hour hearing after detention.
After that hearing, the teens went before the court on June 15 and the case was continued. Another 10-day hearing was held in late June. Dively explained since the cases were not heard at time and prosecutors weren’t waiting on any new evidence, the teens had to be released.
He said the teens would remain in the custody of their parents provided they avoid anything that would cause them new problems with the legal system.
Belfor, a company described by Pastor Dennis Reedy as the world’s largest firm involved in cleanups after a disaster, is restoring the 92-year-old church building. Church officials had previously decided to isolate its educational unit from the main sanctuary by putting a wall between the two to seal one off from the other. Church officials decided to refurbish the educational unit first and the more-heavily damaged sanctuary later.