The fate of a deteriorating building in downtown Crothersville will likely be addressed at the next town council meeting because the owner hasn’t complied with court-ordered repairs.
The building at 121 E. Howard St., at the town’s only stoplight at U.S. 31, was built in the 1800s and once housed the Odd Fellows Lodge, a library, a license branch and a pharmacy.
Now owned by Nathan Ray of Seymour and an organization called Environmental Awareness Reached through Helping Hands, the two-story, 2,030-square-foot building is surrounded by yellow caution tape and construction barriers because of safety concerns.
Story continues below gallery
“It’s obviously getting worse,” town council President Ardell Mitchell said Tuesday.
Last year, Ray was ordered by Jackson Circuit Judge Richard Poynter to make repairs to the crumbling building by Dec. 18. Those included removing loose or broken bricks, making weather-related upgrades and repairing or installing gutters.
Poynter also ordered Ray to remove or rebuild structural columns on the front of the building, and the front canopy was to be removed.
Neither Ray nor anyone representing the EARTHH organization completed the required work, officials report.
“To my knowledge, no one has shown up at the court proceedings or any town meetings or responded,” Mitchell said.
Ray said he has lacked transportation to keep up with completing the repairs and attending court dates or meetings. He said, however, he has plans to use the vacant building to house an organic food bank.
Just a small portion of the space will be used for his nonprofit organization, while some of it could be rented out to small businesses or charitable organizations. He also said he wants to provide gardening classes and lessons on environmental awareness.
As for the condition of the building, Ray said, he has made some repairs and plans to complete more.
“I’ve removed the vines that had grown through the brick, tore out some rotten ceilings and tied the gutter back up,” he said.
Ray said the building was inspected last fall by a masonry specialist for Indiana Landmarks and was told the building was structurally sound and not at risk of falling.
“They are supposed to be getting in touch with me about a workshop to teach people about masonry, but I have not heard from them,” Ray said.
On Feb. 24, town attorney Jeff Lorenzo said town officials requested emergency authority to remove the canopy from the north side of the building due to the weight of snow on it. The canopy was at risk of collapsing at that time.
The main concern was safety to passers-by under it, Lorenzo said.
The court granted the town’s request, and Riley Home Remodeling of Louisville, Kentucky, removed it, Mitchell said.
“It had to come down quickly before it fell,” Mitchell said. “Howard Street is a very heavily used street, and it’s also a walking path for kids going to school.”
At the next town council meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. April 7 at Crothersville Town Hall, Mitchell said he and the two other board members hope to put the issue on the agenda and evaluate the cost of demolition versus the cost of saving the building.
“We have to decide what’s in the best interest of the town,” he said.
A contempt of court hearing for Ray pertaining to the case is set for today in Jackson Circuit Court, according to court documents.