Crothersville officials debate future of buildings

CROTHERSVILLE

Two downtown Crothersville buildings that officials believe are beyond saving soon will be tested for asbestos and then may be demolished.

Town Council President Lenvel “Butch” Robinson said Hubert H. Ashley Jr. expressed a willingness to donate the buildings to the town for $1 apiece. Ashley owns a third building adjacent to the two at 125 S. Armstrong St. but wants to continue operating his foundry business in it.

The town can apply for a grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ blight clearance program, but council members learned the deadline is early July.

For now, they chose to move forward with asbestos testing and determining a cost estimate for demolition so they could apply for funding in 2018.

The only council member to cast a dissenting vote was Bob Lyttle.

“My personal opinion, I don’t think the town needs to deal with it,” he said.

“I’m afraid, Bob, the town is going to get stuck with (the buildings) sooner or later whether we want it or not,” Robinson responded.

The foundry building is in bad shape, too, so it’s possible the town also could end up with it down the road, Robinson said.

“Why do we have to bail people out that make a mess? Have them take care of it,” Lyttle said.

Robinson said the buildings are a safety hazard and could fall and hurt or kill someone. 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. There also are issues with floor joists.

Ashley attended a recent safety board meeting and said he would complete some structural repairs on the two northern buildings but he wanted to continue to produce aluminum products in the south building.

Town officials also have said the boarded-up windows and peeling paint on the buildings won’t help attract businesses, industries and people to the community.

If the buildings are torn down, the space could be turned into a parking lot or a new business could be built there.

The first step in the process is to have the buildings tested for asbestos. Robinson contacted a couple of area businesses that could perform the work.

DHA Inc. in Lexington will test the ceilings, walls and floors for asbestos for $500 and also have a demolition expert determine the cost of removing the buildings.

Asbestech Inc. in Clarksville said the cost of asbestos inspection and lab testing would cost between $1,200 and $1,500.

Trena Carter with Administrative Resources association said once the demolition cost estimate is available, the town could work toward applying for grant funding next year.

Town officials agreed there wasn’t enough time to complete all of the steps to meet this year’s July 7 deadline for submitting the grant proposal and letter of intent. That would have required going through the process of taking ownership of the buildings, determining demolition cost, scope of work and potential uses for the property and conducting a public hearing.

Carter said she anticipates the blight-clearance program to be ongoing. That 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.

Carter told the council it’s important for communities to let OCRA officials know they have buildings that need to be torn down so funding opportunities continue.

As long as the program remains a part of OCRA’s action plan, Carter said the application could be submitted next year, but the deadline or number of funding rounds is unknown at this time.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.