Gas line puncture halts work on planned community center

Morning Journal/Katie White Dominion Ohio gas workers were called to the former Heid Hall on James Street in East Palestine on Wednesday afternoon to fix a gas leak on a six-inch low pressure line that was accidentally struck during some renovation work. The couple who own the building would like to turn it into a community center.

EAST PALESTINE — A renovation project at the old Heid Hall on James Street was halted by a gas leak on Wednesday.

Dean Christian, who purchased the former Catholic elementary building about two months ago, said he was leveling ground for a parking lot and digging to install a waterline when he accidentally struck the Dominion Ohio gas line around 3 p.m.

No one was injured and the East Palestine Fire Department blocked off the area to traffic while they waited for the gas company to arrive to fix the problem.

Fire Chief Josh Brown said it was a low pressure six-inch gas line. He and 10 firefighters made sure traffic was blocked off at East Main and French streets, East Main and Liberty streets, and James and Alice streets, as well as an alley nearby.

Dean Christian said he and his wife Karen want to turn the James Street building into a community center.

The couple have already converted one other former elementary building into an assisted living facility, which opened to the public earlier this year.

The Christian House at 82 Garfield Ave. was formerly known as the Captain Taggart building.

“The town needs a community center,” Dean Christian said of the building at 20 James St.

He anticipated the project will take about two years to complete, and their plans call for a renovation of the entire facility that will include a banquet hall downstairs and eight apartments for independent senior living on the second floor.

He said the center will also include a jumbotron where people can come and watch sports, like Pittsburgh Steelers or Cleveland Browns games.

According to online records through the county auditor’s office, the James Street building was constructed in 1951 and sits on a half-acre of land. It has been vacant for several years.