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Quake reveals need for church repairs

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska's big earthquake last year revealed previous damage requiring extensive repairs to an Anchorage church, officials said.

Repairs following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in November 2018 unearthed significant structural problems at First Presbyterian Church, The Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

The church plans to replace all the stucco wall plaster and build a new steel cross and supports for its four cast-iron bells, which is expected to take all summer, said church building committee member Jess Snider.

Following the earthquake, the committee used a church member's $400,000 donation to hire Superior Plastering and Cement Finishing.

The contractors preparing to patch walls after the earthquake found other problems at the church dedicated in 1968, said Superior president Jack Forshee.

Stucco was improperly installed and covered over with additional plaster, which added weight to the walls. They also learned the bells hung from the steeple were perched on rotting wood.

"We were up there, on the scaffolding, when the bells rang," Forshee said. "I saw sawdust falling down and the whole structure was shaking. I ordered everyone down and we had them shut off the bells."

The contractors removed the bells in to continue the necessary repair work, Snider said.

"We avoided catastrophic failure," Snider said. "If one of these bells had come down, it probably would have taken down the steeple."

Matt Schultz, who has led the church as its pastor for the past six years, recorded a video from the top of the scaffolding Wednesday for the congregation.

"I want them to know that even though the surface needs work, the foundation is strong," he said.