Anyone who's happened by Davenport's Sacred Heart Cathedral recently can't help but stop and stare. The soaring, 170-foot steeple of the Catholic church at 10th and Iowa streets is positively shrouded in scaffolding.
The reason for all the metal framing is that the roof and steeple are being reshingled and repaired because of damage caused by an Oct. 6 tornado. This is the same storm that damaged the roofs on the Scott County Jail and the King's Harvest homeless shelter in downtown Davenport, said Dave Donovan, emergency management coordinator for the Scott County Emergency Management Agency.
And Sacred Heart isn't the only Catholic church in Davenport with roofs or steeples surrounded by scaffolding.
After the storm, the insurance company for the Diocese of Davenport inspected the roofs of other church property it covers in the Iowa Quad-Cities and determined that 10 other sites — nine in Davenport and Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf — also needed repairs, insurance agent Dan Molyneaux Jr., of Davenport, said.
The multi-million repair projects began in May and, barring unforeseen circumstances, should be wrapping up sometime in November, Ken Bonus, president and CEO of GC3 LLC, the West Des Moines company that is overseeing the project, said in an email.
GC3 is a construction management firm specializing in disaster assessment and reconstruction. It is a subsidiary of GuideOne Insurance, the diocese's carrier, a niche market insurer that is one of the largest church insurers in the country, licensed in all 50 states, according to its website.
On any given day, between 80 and 100 people are working on the projects, Bonus said in his email.
Scaffolding was built simultaneously at numerous churches and involves all three major scaffolding companies in southeastern Iowa — All American Scaffold, Safway Services LLC, and the scaffold group of Ryan & Associates, Bonus said.
The simultaneous framework is so that workers hired to do the reshingling and repair work can keep busy, jumping from one project to the next.
The scaffolding is eye-catching, particularly on the tall steeples such as at Sacred Heart and St. Mary, at 516 Fillmore St., which has a 135-foot tower.
But even on lower-level buildings, such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf, "it's pretty impressive," said Bill Conners, community development director for the city of Bettendorf.
"Usually, even on commercial jobs, you see people working off ladders or ladder jacks," he said. "It is highly unusual to see a company go to the safety extent that these people went to — railings, steps.
"It makes it very safe for the workers actually doing the work and safe for the inspector," Conners said, referring to himself.
An unusual challenge for the people building the scaffolding is that in some instances, the framework rests on the church structure itself — not just beside it — so it needs to be engineered so that it does not damage the church. Engineering includes reinforcing the scaffolding above and below so as to take the load off the buildings' framing, Bonus said in his email.
This isn't just ordinary work. Special skills are required to meet insurance and quality performance requirements, he added.
Another special challenge is working around active churches. That is, the work needs to accommodate daily and weekend worship schedules.
The total insurance claim was estimated at $11.5 million, Deacon David Montgomery, diocesan spokesman, said.
But the actual cost may end up being somewhat less than that, Molyneaux said. The insurance company wants to estimate high so that it isn't caught short in the end, he said.
The dollar amount of the 10 building permits that have been issued so far by the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf adds up to $4,806,563. But that figure "is what physically goes on the building and the labor involved," Molyneaux explained. The cost of the scaffolding is not included, nor the overseeing time of managers, he said.
The amount also does not include the permit fees that total $21,060 so far.
Asked why the tornado seemed to have hit Catholic properties so hard, Molyneaux said, "there is no way to answer that question."
He offered the example of his own house in Bettendorf that had no damage from the Oct. 6 tornado, while 12 homes in his neighborhood got new roofs.
"That kind of thing happens all the time," he said. "I can't explain it. It could be there was some prior damage, yes, but I really can't answer that. The insurance company inspected all the roofs and is doing an awesome job."
Here is a look at the properties getting repairs. In many cases, they are highly historic sites that are religious and cultural landmarks in their neighborhoods and the larger community.
Sacred Heart, 422 E. 10th St., Davenport. In addition to the church sanctuary, the rectory and office building also are being reshingled for $1,254,348, according to the permit issued by the city of Davenport.
The church was founded in 1856; the existing cathedral was built in 1891.
St. Mary, 516 Fillmore St., Davenport. Reshingling the church, parish office, parish center and storage shed for $742,832, according to the city permit. St. Mary's includes a 135-foot bell tower.
The church was founded 1867; the current church was built in 1885.
St. Paul the Apostle, 916 E. Rusholme St., Davenport. Reshingling the church sanctuary, office building, rectory and garages for $582,705, according to the city permit.
The church was founded in 1909.
St. Alphonsus, 2618 Boise Ave., Davenport Reshingling the church sanctuary, fellowship hall, school and rectory/office for $283,943, according to the city permit.
The church was founded in 1903.
Our Lady of Victory, 1627 W. 42nd St./4104 N. Division St., Davenport. Reshingling the church, rectory and garage, for $350,000, according to the city permit.
The church was founded in 1962.
Holy Family, 1923 Fillmore St., Davenport. Reshingling the church roof and garage, for $305,724, according to the city permit.
The church was founded 1897.
St. Vincent Center/chancery, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport. Reshingling the diocesan office building, gym, apartment building, storage building, machine shed, boiler plant house and garage, for $582,000, according to the city permit.
The chancery was founded in 1896.
Assumption High School, 1020 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport. Reshingling the football locker room, baseball concession stand, football garage and concession stand, for $78,710, according to the city permit.
The school was founded in 1958 with the merging of St. Ambrose and Immaculate Conception academies.
All Saints School, 1926 N. Marquette St., Davenport. The permit for this project has not been issued yet.
The school was founded 1964.
St. Anthony, 417 N. Main St., Davenport. Reshingling the church for $186,763, according to the city permit.
The church was founded in 1837.
Our Lady of Lourdes, 1506 Brown St., Bettendorf. Reshingling the rectory and a portion of the church, for $439,537, according to the city permit.
The church was founded in 1903. The current church opened in May 1963, with new gathering space and chapel addition completed in 1998.