The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 3, 2013

Knights’ building sale falls through

JOHNSTOWN — Knights of Columbus Council 467 was close to getting out from the burdensome financial obligation of owning its headquarters at 229 Main St. in downtown Johnstown.

The Catholic fraternal service organization planned to complete the sale of the building to the Peer Empowerment Network for $125,000 in January. The arrangement fell through, though, because that nonprofit group felt it could not maintain the Romanesque structure in a manner befitting its stature as one of the most historic buildings in the city. Now, the Knights are once again searching for potential buyers for the 15,748-square-foot building that was originally constructed for William H. Rose, Johnstown’s first mayor after the 1889 Flood.

“Everything was a go,” said Council 467 Grand Knight Dave Vitovich. “All we had to do was sign the paper.”

The aging building is in need of many expensive repairs.

“It’s so beautiful,” said PEN Executive Director Maryann George. “We felt maybe somebody could come in and keep that integrity. We just wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Peer Empowerment Network, a group dedicated to helping individuals with mental illnesses, planned to use the building as a drop-in center.

The organization currently rents space at 240 Vine St. from a local National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliate. However, the location is too small to host the average of 70 to 75 people who visit on a daily basis. PEN’s two-year lease expired at the end of 2012. A month-to-month agreement has been in place since then. NAMI Cambria County recently closed its doors due to lack of funding and offered to sell the building to PEN for $1.

“It was a very generous offer, but, as a board, we decided not to take them up on it,” George said.

George does not believe NAMI’s closing will negatively affect Peer Empowerment Network’s ability to operate a drop-in center.

“We’ll be looking to find a new location as soon as possible,” George said.

Meanwhile, K of C Council 467 continues to financially struggle with membership down to about 250 individuals, a far smaller number than the club’s heyday, when it was one of the city’s most popular social organizations.

“We’re back to square one. ... We’re right back to paying bills for a building that we’re not using,” said Vitovich.

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