City near deal on eyesore

    The City of Decatur is moving rapidly to get rid of one eyesore building and is hopeful of being able to remove a second, and more dangerous one.
    City council on Tuesday night approved on two readings the terms of a contract to purchase for $30,000 the former sweeper shop (and onetime Holthouse Drug Co.) builging at Second and Monroe streets.
    At the same meeting, a public hearing was held to advance an attempt to land a grant to remove the onetime city utilities/street department building between the city swimming pool and police station.
    Matt Vondren of the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) was in charge of the public hearing held prior to the actual start of the council meeting. Vondren assists cities in obtaining grants and then in administering them, and has been guiding Decatur in its attempt to land a grant of approximately $456,850 from the Indiana Office of Regional and Community Affairs (OCRA). If the grant is awarded, the city would add a match of $96,748, pushing the total grant to some $553,598.
    No one expressed any disapproval of the grant attempt, so the next step will be to have an OCRA representative look over the site.
    Applications for the grant are due September 30, and decisions should be made in December, Vondren said, noting that the grant process is "highly competitive."
    If Decatur receives the grant, the project would begin in 2012 and would provide demolition of the building, asbestos removal and site restoration. The city's application calls for the entire area of 7,700 square feet to be paved over for a parking lot.
    Mayor John Schultz has for some time advocated getting rid of the building which he considers a major danger area, especially to youngsters. City Attorney Tim Baker said liability is a key factor in wanting the structure removed.
    Parks and Recreation Superintendent Steve Krull said it would be a major boost to the neighborhood— Councilman Ken Meyer, who lives nearby, readily agreed — and would no doubt increase property values.

Sweeper shop
    Although Don Spice of the Geneva area had indicated he had purchased the former sweeper shop, as city officials got into the process of attempting a purchase it was discovered that Dwayne Skaggs of Bluffton, who operated the sweeper shop, still owned the building.
    The mayor and city attorney negotiated the contract with Skaggs. The Board of Works and Safety approved the wording of the contract, but council must provide the funds. Council unanimously approved the purchase ordinance on two readings and will no doubt give final approval at the next meeting, August 2.
    One possible hangup remains. Council authorized a payment of $3,125 to have Environmental Management Assessments of Huntertown to prepare an environmental assessment of the structure. The same firm previously did an assessment of the old city utilities/ street department building.
    If some major environmental issues are found in the sweeper shop, then the city can walk away from the contract.
    The mayor said it is his "intent to demolish the building" once purchased, and later decide what to do with the space. He currently has no particular idea, other than having a "green space," on what to do with the area, but simply wants to get rid of "an unsightly building."
    On Monday, the Adams County Commissioners named three people to a common construction wage committee that will set wages for any large city and/or county building projects to be done in the remainder of 2011: Bill Karbach of Decatur, a member of the Decatur Board of Public Works and Safety; Neil Ogg, the county's superintendent of building and zoning and its building inspector; and Commissioner Kim Fruechte.
    Council and the mayor agreed to go with the same three, except Karbach asked not to be included and will be replaced by Dan Rickord, Decatur's utilities director. The Indiana Federation of Labor and a builders and contractors group will each name a representative.
    The committee will meet on August 9.