The fate of a historic but crumbling building in downtown Crothersville has been decided: The town will take it over with plans to demolish it.
The decision came Tuesday at the Crothersville Town Council meeting, when the three-member board unanimously approved taking ownership of the building at 121 E. Howard St.
“We’re doing the town a disservice if we ignore it,” council President Ardell Mitchell said.
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Mitchell said safety is the No. 1 priority, and there’s been concern the building, which continues to develop more cracks, could collapse, spilling into U.S. 31 at the town’s only stoplight — or worse, hurt someone walking along the sidewalk.
“It’s a bad deal, but we’ve got to do it,” councilman Butch Robinson said.
The two-story building was built in 1891 and first housed the Odd Fellows Lodge. It was later a library, a license branch and a pharmacy.
It’s been a topic of discussion for the town council for months as the members tried to decide what to do with it after the owner, Nathan Ray of Seymour, had not made any substantial improvements to the building despite a court order to do so.
Those improvements included removing loose or broken bricks, making weather-related upgrades and repairing or installing gutters.
Ray, who had not responded to any of the town’s requests, attended April’s board meeting and took responsibility for not having repairs completed, saying he doesn’t have the funds to do so.
“I don’t mind doing physical labor. I don’t mind working hard. I just don’t know how to organize repairs,” he said. “I definitely don’t have the money in my pocket.”
Mitchell responded, “What I’m hearing is that you don’t have a plan except sweat equity. No offense, but it’s not fair to the town despite the best of intentions.”
Ray purchased the 40-by-66-foot property on March 17, 2014. No purchase price is listed on the property card listed with the assessment. The property had an assessed value of $84,000 in 2014.
Ray said he had plans to turn the vacant building into an organic food bank through a nonprofit organization called Environmental Awareness Reached through Helping Hands.
The council decided to wait a month to make a decision, considering it was up for certificate sale April 11 and could have new owners. Town Attorney Jeff Lorenzo said on Tuesday that it did not sell.
Mitchell said it could take about $100,000 to fix the building or about $40,000 to demolish it.
He said he’s not opposed to someone buying it if there’s interest, maybe from a surrounding business.
Councilman Derrick Minton mentioned tearing down the building and possibly making it into a green space with benches. The other members agreed that would be a good solution.