City to play wait game on key grant

    Having taken the latest step in seeking a grant to rid the city of a hazardous eyesore, Decatur officials are now mostly relegated to a waiting game, hoping to hear good news before the end of the year.
    Prior to Tuesday night's city council meeting, the second of two required public hearings was held on the city's bid for a $456,850 grant to take down and clean up the ancient former street department — and onetime city light — building located just west of the city police headquarters.
    Matt Vondren of the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC), who held the first public hearing in July, was back for last night's. Vondren is guiding the city through the process to obtain the grant and will administer it, if the city is successful.
    The city is providing $96,748 in local funds — from its Cumulative Capital Development Fund — to the grant application, pushing the total cost of the project to $553,598. The grant is being sought from the Indiana Office of Regional and Community Affairs (OCRA). An OCRA representative inspected the area in question after the first public hearing.
    If the grant is secured, the 116-year-old structure would be razed, below-ground areas removed, rubble would be removed, and 4,580 cubic yards of fill dirt would be used. In addition, asbestos would be removed and, when all that is completed, 7,700 square feet of parking lot would be put down, with four and a half inches of asphalt. The lot, Vondren said, could be used by the police department and also for overflow parking at the nearby city pool.
    Several people spoke in support of razing the building, nearly everyone citing safety as the key reason it needs to be taken down. The structure has been empty since the street department moved to the onetime Baker & Schultz building on Elm St. in 2008.
    Street/Sanitation Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert said the building has "major structural issues." Noting that the building at one point last winter had 12 feet of standing water in it, Gilbert said, "This is a very important project, safety wise."
    Ron Andrews, who lives near the structure, said he sees numerous youngsters playing in the area and "it's just a matter of time before someone gets in there and gets hurt."
    Councilman Ken Meyer, another nearby resident, said he has checked out the building "and that basement is not somewhere you want to be." He echoed Andrews' statement about seeing many children playing in the area.
    City Attorney Tim Baker and local resident Larry Isch also lent their words of support, and Mayor John Schultz provided the final comments: "(The building) has outlived its usefulness. It's time for it to go."