Old Building To Be Saved…Maybe

A deteriorating nearly 125-year-old building in downtown Crothersville might be saved…maybe.

At the June Crothersville Town Council meeting Greg Sekula of Southern Region Director of Indiana Historic Landmarks made a plea for the council to work with his organization to preserve the two story building originally built as an Odd Fellows Lodge.

Indiana historic Landmarks is a 501(c)3 organization which seeks to keep older buildings from being torn down as a result of neglect, abandonment or business expansion.

“Old buildings help define the character of a community,” Sekula told the town council.

The structure at the corner of US 31 and Howard Street at the stoplight corner in Crothersville was constructed in 1891 as an Odd Fellows lodge hall on the second floor and retail space on the street level. Over the years the building has housed pharmacies, barbershops, retail shops and the local library.

While acknowledging that the building’s front foundation has deteriorated and cracks are seen in the upper portions of the all brick structure, Sekula said the building can be stabilized and sold for some future use.

“The is no bulging of the walls that would contribute to a catastrophic collapse. There is a large degree of (structural) integrity,” he said. “We want to work with the town to stabilize and save the building.”

Tom Johnson, a mason with 40 years experience said the bricks used to building the structure were extremely soft. Firing techniques in brick manufacturing at the time had not yet produce a harder, more moisture resistant masonry product.

As a result of the soft brick, moisture from the ground and splashed water and salt from the streets helped to contribute to the building’s long term demise.

The building is owned by EARTHH, Environmental Awareness Reached Through Helping Hands, with Nathan Ray of Seymour as its principal stockholder. Property taxes on the building have not been paid and the structure has gone through two tax sales and a recent commissioner certificate sale with getting no bids.

The town was resigned to having to pay to raze the building.

Sekula proposed that the town transfer ownership of the building to Indiana Historic Landmarks and use the money—estimated at $40,000—which it would cost to tear the building down to allow IHL to stabilize then market the building for some future use.

“If it is going to cost the town $40,000 to tear the building down and we can use that money to let this organization save the building, then I feel we should allow Historic Landmarks to preserve the building,” said council president Ardell Mitchell.

The town is to pay an estimated $2,500 for an environmental assessment to ascertain no ground contamination is on the building site. The cost of that assessment is to come from the town’s $40,000 contribution to IHL.

Sekula said that the agreement with the town would need to be approved by the Indiana historical Landmarks board when they meet later this July. “They ultimately decide whether to participate in a project,” said Sekula.

Mitchell said following a positive action by IHL, he wants the organization to provide the town with a scope and schedule of the work they propose to do.

In another matter, the town took the first steps at establishing a Redevelopment Commission for the community. The commission’s initial primary function would be to establish a TIF District.

TIF stands for Tax Increment Financing and is a financial tool to pay for needed projects approved by the Redevelopment Commission.

An established TIF district would freeze the existing property taxes for their current uses but tax revenue from any future expansion inside the TIF District could be used by the Redevelopment Commission.

“What is driving this idea is the need to remove surface water from the sanitary sewer system,” said Mitchell. The town is under an IDEM order to reduce the amount of storm water being treated at the sewer plant. Additionally, the town wants to eliminate treating storm water in order to have sewer capacity to treat effluent expected from the Aisin Chemical Indiana expansion.

Mitchell said a TIF District typically is used in area when expansion is expected, such as an industrial park. “TIF will not raise any residential property taxes. Residents will not pay more for a TIF district,” he said.

The town council would appoint a five member board of town residents to the Redevelopment Commission.

“We must be pro-active not reactive to the needs of our infrastructure,” said Mitchell.

In other business the council approved getting bids for re-surfacing the following streets:

  • Seymour Road from East Walnut to US 31.
  • Seymour Road from East Walnut to Collman Ave.
  • West Howard Street from Dismore to Bethany Road.

The town agreed to pur a 1965 Ford fire truck into an auction of town surplus property next month. “I had hoped we could help out some neighboring fire department but I found out we can’t even give it away. No one wants it,” said councilman Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson.