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May 21, 2003

Deaf church being forced to relocate

From: - May 21, 2003

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A church for the deaf is being forced to relocate to make room for freeway construction, despite warnings from church leaders the move could break up the church, according to a news report in The Press-Enterprise .

The church is in the way of a $295 million road project, which includes replacing the clover-leaf interchange at Interstate 215 and Highway 60 with more simple entrance and exit ramps. Construction is set to begin in November. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Riverside Board of Supervisors condemned the church property May 20.

The Rev. Tom Mather, pastor of Calvary Deaf Church, told the board Caltrans is willing to pay less than half of the $4 million he estimates is needed to relocate the church, a parsonage, a duplex and a house occupied by deaf residents, the paper reported.

The church does not want to take on debt by relocating, because it may not be able to offer discounted rent for deaf and deaf-related people, leaders said. The church has three tenants: a deaf former homeless man and two single mothers.

"If I lived at a different place, I could feel lost," said Marjorie McCarthy, speaking through a deaf interpreter. She has five children, three of them deaf, and moved to the property seven years ago, after her husband died. "I don't know what it would be like out there."

Mather told the newspaper Caltrans wants to give money to help begin building a church, but not enough to replicate what it has. The news report did not specify the amount Caltrans is willing to offer.

The unanimous supervisors' vote sets up a possible lawsuit if the Assemblies of God church is not satisfied with Caltrans final offer.

The project will disturb 149 properties. Caltrans must provide fair market value and help relocate businesses or residents, public affairs manager Rose Melgoza told the newspaper.

"We have to be very careful using taxpayer dollars," she said. "It's our goal to find something that's suitable, but we may have to come to a compromise that can accommodate the tenants and the church."

The church has about 40 members, more than half of them deaf.

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