New parish complex to feature alternative energy source

By Paul A. Barra

COLUMBIA — Our Lady of the Hills parishioners broke ground for a new $1.3 million parish life center Sept. 8.

John Quin, chair of the building committee, said that building permits will be granted in the next two or three weeks and that the 18,000-square-foot complex will be ready in about 200 days after that.

The new parish life center will contain a gymnasium, offices and meeting rooms in the first phase of construction, according to Father D. Anthony Droze, the pastor.

“The expansion will be classrooms,” he said. “Then we’ll be ready for all eventualities.”

Father Droze said that he traveled to Mepkin Abbey to view the monastery’s new library and infirmary and the retrofitted refectory, all of which are heated and cooled by geothermal energy.

“He (Abbot Francis Kline) encouraged me not to give up on it, so we pushed and pushed and will now have two-thirds of our new building heated and cooled geo-thermally. It was expensive, but the company bent over backwards for our business and our finance officer tells us that payback will be within five years. It’s exciting to think of the energy savings,” Father Droze said.

Pastor emeritus Father Bob Fix and Msgr. Donald Hamburger also attended the groundbreaking. Father Fix said the day was long in coming.

“This is a great day,” the retired priest said. “We’ve been working on it for 10 years.”

The building fund total to date is $825,670. The parish will borrow $237,000 from the Diocese of Charleston, but is continuing to seek pledges to offset that loan.