- Associated Press - Sunday, June 29, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - A former Catholic church and school buildings are in bad shape, but it’s not clear what will happen to the boarded-up structures.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (http://bit.ly/1vkl693 ) many residents are sad to see the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School decaying since it closed in 2006.

Eighty-year-old Jim Dolan said it’s difficult to see the former church and school he attended for decades.

“It’s just a shame to see a building of that quality and historical value that’s been totally decimated,” Dolan said. “It was such a prominent part of the community.”

The church stopped holding services in 2003 after several parishes were combined. Then the Cedar Valley Catholic school board closed the school in 2006 for financial reasons.

The buildings were sold for $475,500 to an individual in Los Angeles who said he planned to use the facility for charitable and educational purposes.

But local officials revoked the property’s tax-exempt status in 2011 because it continued to sit idle. The property’s owner has neglected to pay more than $50,000 in back taxes and bills from the city for snow removal and sidewalk repairs.

Mayor Buck Clark says the city has received complaints, and officials are evaluating their options, including cleaning up the site or possibly seizing the buildings.

“We can’t just let it sit there and get to the point it’s headed,” Clark said.

Treasurer Rita Schmidt said the property owner had been in contact and does plan to pay the back taxes.

But even if the tax bill is paid, city officials may try to force improvements at the site or consider trying to take ownership of the property under laws for dealing with blighted, vacant homes.

Local businessman John Hayes, who attended St. Mary’s school, said he hopes the history of the property can be preserved.

St. Mary’s Church and School was built in 1922 and the convent and rectory were added in 1956. Peoples Community Health Clinic occupied the first floor of the convent from 1979 to 1986. The last nuns moved out in 1984.

“I’ve got three generations on both sides of my family that went to church there,” Hayes said. “I drive by there every day, and it’s extremely disappointing to say the least.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com

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