By Mike Hazlip—
After repeated incidents of vandalism, Holy Family Catholic Church is planning to install a perimeter fence.
The church filed plans with the city for landscape improvements along Old Auburn Road that include several hundred feet of new iron fencing. Economic Development and Communications Manager Meghan Huber confirmed the plans in an email to The Sentinel Friday and said the project requires staff-level review because the planned fence is over 200 feet long.
Deacon Mark Holt confirmed that concerns over vandalism and the safety of staff and parishioners initially prompted the project. He said the decision to install a fence was a difficult one for the church.
“There are a number of parishioners who are unhappy with that, and justifiably so,” Holt said in a phone interview with The Sentinel Tuesday. “Because anytime you add a fence across the front of a property it gives it the appearance of being institutionalized, and we certainly don’t want that.”
The decision was not made lightly and involved “a lot of discussion” according to Holt. He called installing a fence a last resort to protect the congregation and property from further vandalism.
“The homeless that we encounter through the Citrus HART Winter Sanctuary program, they’re great people: they respect the property, they look after themselves, it’s a joy working with them,” Holt said. “But the other folks that we meet there behind the building, they’re shooting up drugs, we’re finding needles.”
In addition to drug paraphernalia, Holt said he found electrical panels had been tampered with in attempts to hard wire directly into the building’s electrical system. He also said multiple vehicles were broken into during a Sunday morning mass.
Two years ago, a Swastika was also spray painted on a Ten Commandment’s monument in front of the church, and a statue of Mary was found beheaded.
Along with new fencing, Holt said improvements will include a larger plaza in front of the church with better wheelchair accessibility.