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City will seek grant to raze old light plant

April 6, 2011

Decatur Mayor John Schultz

    A 116-year-old city-owned building has a wrecking ball in its future, and the sooner the better for Decatur Mayor John Schultz.
    The mayor asked for and received permission from city council Tuesday night  to seek a grant to demolish the huge, decaying building behind the Fifth St. police station and near the city swimming pool.
    Built in 1895, the building once housed the city's electric utility. In later years, it was home to the street department. Three or so years ago, as the structure became unsafe, the street department moved into the former Baker & Schulz building complex on Elm St. after that complex was purchased by the city.
    The building "has become a safety issue and we need to do something about it," the mayor said at last night's Decatur City Council meeting. He said he has begun investigating possible grant funds and learned "there is money out there for this."
    The Wightman-Petrie firm doing other work for the city has estimated that it will cost upwards of $500,000 to demolish the building, haul away all brick, etc., and restore the sight to a grassy area. The city would have to contribute some $90,000 to the project, employing County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) monies.
    Schultz urged that expenditure "to do this the right way, the way that's right for the environment," and council unanimously approved moving ahead with the effort, starting with the search for grant funds.
    The mayor said after the meeting that he became "very concerned" when it was discovered over the winter that the building had filled with water. "And if some kids got in there..." he added.
    By the way, B.W. Quinn was mayor when the structure was built.   

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