Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Cathedral bids are in

Renovation to begin day after Easter

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bishop Robert W. Muench was part of a group that met Tuesday to open bids submitted by contractors eager to renovate the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington.

        The group, which also included architect Bill Brown of Colorado Springs, Colo., other consultants and some church officials, met at the architectural offices of KZF Inc. in Cincinnati.

[photo] The altar of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption will be moved to about 6 feet in front of the grate at the bottom of this photo.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        They will spend several weeks reviewing the bids and choosing which contractors will become part of the $4.7 million effort, which will include setting aside $500,000 for maintenance.

        “The information will be studied and reviewed,” Bishop Muench said. “We are still early in the process. At the appropriate time, the details will be released.”

        Several bids arrived for each of the 18 bid packages attached to the cathedral project.

        The work will include cleaning murals, installing air conditioning, and — the most protested part of the plans — moving a massive marble altar closer to worshipers.

        Parishioners have protested the altar move, but the bishop has maintained that the change complies with the Vatican II conference's edict on worship styles.

        Unlike the bidding process for public works projects, this bidding is private. But Mr. Brown has promised that the names of the winning bidders will be released.

        Decision makers also could reject the low bid, contrary to public works projects. Yet Mr. Brown said that's unlikely.

        “You would have to have a darned good reason to not take the low bidder,” he said.

        The diocese wants to use its money wisely but also realizes that certain aspects of this project will require great craftsmanship, he said.

        “The reality of architecture and reality of this restoration project is just very, very complex,” he said.

        For example, the cathedral's murals “are very, very precious things. You certainly don't want anyone touching them.”

        Contractors, mainly from the Tristate, visited the cathedral in December to get a feel for the project.

        The group that met Tuesday will spend the next month reviewing their bids, making sure they accounted for all aspects of the work they bid for.

        Actual labor should begin April 16 — the day after Easter.

        The cathedral is a major tourist attraction, drawing 70,000 people a year.

        The interior's three-tiered walls are drawn from Notre Dame de Chartres, and its facade is a mini-copy of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

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