Dangerous old building a year older

Want to help?
    Matt Vondren said personal letters from residents of the neighborhood around the old street department building can be a great help in securing a grant by writing personal letters and giving details, "not just saying it should come down." Those interested should contact Mayor John Schultz at City Hall.

    The 116-year-old former city street department building located between the police station and city swimming pool has only deteriorated further in the past year, it was pointed out at this week's city council meeting as local officials continued their second bid to secure federal funding to demolish what everyone considers a dangerous structure.
    The city was denied in its first attempt, formal word coming early in January, and Mayor John Schultz said he and Matt Vondren of the Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating  Council (NIRCC) are pretty sure they know why. So bid No. 2 has been launched.
    The city has put up a $103,050 of its own money in seeking $400,000 of federal funds through the Indiana Office of Regional and Community Affairs (OCRA).
    Vondren, who has been working with the city through the entire process, spoke at a public hearing held within the council meeting. He repeated most of what he had said before — this was his fourth public hearing on the grant attempt, he said — and added a personal note. The building is literally rotting away and, Vondren noted, he was allowed in the off-limits structure on a tour with Street/Sanitation Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert.
    Vondren was obviously sincere when he said, "I wouldn't want to do that again."
    The structure is an accident waiting to happen, it's been said often, due to the numbers of youngsters at the nearby pool plus a number of children in the neighborhood.
    Parks and Recreation Director Steve Krull talked about the danger of a sinkhole being created by all the water in the building — 12 feet deep in the basement at one time — and how certain points of the pool are no more than 50 feet away.
    "There is no need for the building; it is just a hazard," the mayor said.
    Councilman Ken Meyer, who resides in the neighborhood, said, "...blighted is a fact, and it can't help property values in the neighborhood."
    City Attorney Tim Baker again underscored the liability factor for the city.
    As they had at previous hearings, neighborhood residents Ron Andrews and Dave Wingate talked about the dangers posed by the building —Wingate has five children — and Deputy Police Chief Greg Cook said he has seen pieces of the roof falling off.
    If the grant is awarded, once the building is razed, the area would become a "green" area, Vondren said.
    And that may have been what killed the last bid, according to Schultz. The previous attempt said the area, once razed, could be covered in asphalt. None of the OCRA funds, however, can be used for government purposes and, officials there mistakenly believed the area would become a parking lot for city police and the pool.
That got the bid tossed out, the mayor said.
    Applications are due to OCRA by June 8. The city should find out in August whether the grant will be awarded, Vondren said. If it is, work could begin in the spring of 2013 and be concluded by the following September, he added.