Town To Buy, Demolish Collapsing Downtown Buildings

While not at all visible from street level, this elevated view shows the deterioration and extent of collapse at buildings owned by Hubert Ashley of Scottsburg. Ashley has been cited numerous times by the town’s Unsafe Building Board with little action taken by the property owner.
~photo courtesy Town of Crothersville

Two dilapidated buildings in the center of Crothersville will be purchased and town down for safety concerns as a result of action of the town council at a special meeting last week.
The purchase price from owner Hubert Ashley of Scottsburg is just a dollar. Demolition costs will be considerably more.
For years the town council has been after Ashley to either repair or raze the buildings. But the owner never took any action. Recently, deterioration resulted in a portion of the two-story structure on the south side to collapse onto a second single story structure.
Ashley, who operates Ashley Foundry in Crothersville has owned the buildings since 2003, according to county property records.
Barricades now block the sidewalk in front of two buildings in downtown Crothersville. During the special Tuesday night meeting, the town council agreed to purchase the buildings and have them demolished for safety concerns.
The council voted 4-1 to buy the buildings for $1 and hire a contractor to have them torn down pending town attorney Jeff Lorenzo’s review of the property deeds and receipt of a contract. Councilman Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson voted no.
Councilman Chad Wilson made a motion to hire Albertson Excavating of Scottsburg to demolish the buildings pending Lorenzo’s review of the contract. That also passed 4-1 with Robinson voting no. Demolition costs are estimated at $35,000 if the building passes an IDEM required asbestos inspection.
The only unanimous vote came on Wilson’s motion to allow Foster and Clerk-Treasurer Terry Richey to sign the contract after Lorenzo reviews it.
“If we’re going to take ownership of them, we better have somebody in line to tear them down, in my opinion, because the town doesn’t need to be standing with a liability like that for even a day,” Robinson said.
“I think whether it’s in our hands or not, if it comes down, we’re going to be liable because we’ve known for too long,” Foster said.
Lorenzo said the town could be liable if the buildings were to fall on the sidewalk or alley and injure someone.
“If it falls on a public way maintained by the town and we have sat here tonight and failed to take action, then I think we have risk,” he said. “Somebody’s got to be injured, obviously. You’ve got to take all deliberate action, which you’re afforded to do— barricades, whatever you’ve done— to make certain the public is protected.”
Lorenzo then gave the town council three options: Declare an emergency, accept the selling offer, clean up the property, assess the cost against Ashley and obtain a judge’s order against Ashley for failing to clean up the property; take ownership and immediately clean it up; or not do anything.
“Doing nothing is always a choice, but it’s not a very good one,” Lorenzo said.
Older residents recall the Ashley Aluminum Foundry at the corner of Main and US 31 as the original Garriott Chevrolet dealership. The single story building to the north was the former Kattman Shoe Store.
The collapsing two-story building was Snow’s Restaurant, later Matt Young’s Restaurant. The second floor living quarters were made regionally famous in the song “The Penthouse” by local singer song-writer Brian Fink.