D.C. mayor Vincent Gray tours earthquake damage at National Cathedral
(AP, ABC7) - District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray is seeking emergency funding for restoration of Washington National Cathedral from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after touring the earthquake-damaged church.
Gray says he'll request disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the cathedral and other buildings. Gray plans to ask for $7 million for damaged city buildings, and around $15 million for the cathedral.
Gray called the cathedral an "iconic monument" in the city during a tour Thursday. He noted more than 500,000 people from around the world visit it per year.
Andrew Hullinger, director of the cathedral's finances, says the costs of preserving the cathedral were already "daunting" but after the quake are "enormous."
The stabilization process has cost more than a million dollars to date. The engineers moved the most unstable, precarious portions of the pinnacles to the ground.
“Just off the top of my head I could envision it taking at least two years to repair the tower and get all this stonework back,” lead mason Joe Alonso told the mayor.
“This is far more than a religious institution, this is an iconic structure, it's a place that has an enormous role in the nation,” said Gray when asked whether the government should fund construction on a religious institution.
The cathedral would have to ensure it will use the money for repairs as opposed to operations. It has historically run up massive deficits.
“We do have separate funds for the repairs, renovations,” Hullinger said. “Today represents another example of us leaving no stone unturned, seeking funds necessary to repair the cathedral.”
FEMA denied a request for aid from the city of Mineral, which is close to the epicenter of the earthquake. If the funding does not come through, the cathedral will rely on private donations, and the city will have to rely on local money.
The cathedral and the Washington Monument sustained significant damage during the 5.8-magnitude quake that shook the nation's capital nearly three months ago. Initial repairs to the cathedral are expected to cost at least $15 million. The monument remains closed, while the cathedral is scheduled to reopen Nov. 12.