Along the east side of Armstrong Street or U.S. 31 through the heart of Crothersville sit three adjoining buildings with boarded-up windows and peeling paint.
Those who have been in the buildings say the roof is damaged in one, while another one was never repaired after being damaged by a fire and there are issues with floor joists.
Town officials don’t think that will help in attracting businesses, industries and people to the community.
Given the condition of these buildings at 125 S. Armstrong St., the town council is looking into having them tested for asbestos and possibly torn down. The space could be turned into a parking lot or a new business could be built there.
Right now, the buildings are owned by Hubert H. Ashley Jr. The south building is used as a foundry, but the other two buildings are not used.
Councilman Chad Wilson said Ashley once said he would donate two of the three buildings to anyone who wants them.
Wilson said vehicles parked along the street in front of the buildings have been damaged by semitrailers traveling through town in recent years, so he would like to see parking be allowed on just one side of the street. He also said he would like to see the town acquire the two buildings, knock them down and make the area a parking lot.
Council President Lenvel “Butch” Robinson said he needs to know the costs of asbestos testing and demolition before he would even think about agreeing to accept the buildings.
He said he is totally opposed to paying anything for the buildings.
“I think it’s way beyond repair. It’s in sad shape,” Robinson said. “I don’t know why a person would be in business here for 40-plus years and let these buildings get in that condition. It’s totally his irresponsibility is what it amounts to.”
Robinson said the council has approached Ashley in the past about making repairs or improvements to the buildings because parts of them are unsafe.
Ashley attended a recent safety board meeting and said he would do some structural repairs on the two northern buildings, but he wanted to continue to produce aluminum products in the south building.
Councilwoman Brenda Holzworth, who serves on the town’s safety board, asked the town’s grant consultant, Trena Carter with Administrative Resources association, about any potential funds available for demolition or rehabilitation of the buildings.
Carter said the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs has a blight clearance program, which involves Community Development Block Grant funding for the removal of commercial structures that are in blighted conditions.
If the town would ask for the maximum amount of $350,000 to demolish the buildings, it would have to provide a 10 percent local match. The letter of intent would be due July 7, and the application would need to be turned in by Sept. 1.
Carter said since federal funds are involved, she would prefer the town own the building.
Wilson said he is working on getting someone from the state fire marshal’s office to inspect the buildings so the town would have something in writing saying they are unsafe.
The safety board also will contact asbestos inspectors and demolition experts to determine costs.