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City takes aim at eyesore properties

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Building inspector calls Seventh Street Obrecht home the No. 1 concern

By VINCE LUECKE
Editor

TELL CITY – Tell City’s mayor, building inspector and its five-person city council are pledging to take concrete action this year against properties they consider to be eyesores.

A list of 13 properties judged by Building Inspector Bob Young to be in need of major repairs or improvements was circulated at the April 15 meeting of the board of public works and safety. Young said he had been in contact, at some point or another, with most of the properties’ owners but either no work was done or the property has again fallen into disrepair.

“This isn’t all of them but they are among the worst,” he said.

The works board took no action but Mayor Barbara Ewing said the city would press owners to address issues and the city would hold them accountable.

Obrecht House

Young said the property that needs the most immediate attention is the former Obrecht House at 348 Seventh St. A former showcase of 1800s architecture and once renowned for its interior woodwork, the house has slid into decay over the past decade and hasn’t been occupied, Councilman Tony Hollinden said, in perhaps 20 or more years. Now in the hands of Carolyn Barr, the house is just a stone’s throw from the new Tell City Depot and a potential downtown hotel.

City leaders have discussed their concerns about the state of the home off and on for two years but have not taken formal action. Ewing said the home’s condition has reached a tipping point.

“It’s time for something to happen there,” she said.

Reached Thursday, Barr said she had recently obtained a new permit from Young’s office for improvements and said she would have the home’s appearance corrected by the end of summer. She was hesitant to give specifics but said the home’s exterior would be painted and work would be done on the roof.

Barr said her goal remains to fully restore the house.

“That’s always been my plan. It’s a fantastic home,” she said.

Barr said she had already invested much money in repairs on the home but was committed to completing what the city wants done.

A third player in wrangling over the house is Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit group that works to preserve and find new owners for historic structures. Barr purchased the home from Indiana Landmarks with the understanding that she would make certain improvements. Barr declined to be specific about what Indiana Landmarks was requiring. Ewing confirmed the city had expressed its concerns about the home’s condition with the group’s southern Indiana representative.

The city and Barr have been at odds before over a historic building. Barr was sued over the condition of the former William Tell Hotel at Main and Washington streets after it collapsed.

Barr later cleared the site and the suit was dropped.

Also on the list of properties Young wants addressed is the former skating rink at Tell and Seventh streets. It is owned by Chip Schulthise. Someone placed a spray-painted sign on that property a couple of weeks ago calling it an eyesore along the street.

Other properties on the list are:
• 736 Fifth St., owned by Arlene Whitten
• 748 Fifth St., owned by Marcella Glenn
• 603 13th St., owned by Randy Alvey
• 723 16th St., owned by D&D Investments
• 637 Ninth St., owned by Luther Giltner
• 1032 Franklin St., owned by Irene Caslow
• 422 13th St., owned by Shirley Hile
• 825 Schiller St., owned by Kenneth Payne
• 3825 Mozart St., owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
• 437 16th St., owned by Jeff Kast
• 603 13th St., owned by Randy Alvey

The News did not verify ownership of the properties.

Tell City, like most communities, fights an ongoing battle with owners of abandoned, foreclosed and neglected homes and regularly mows grass in the summer and removes junk when owners accumulate too much or leave a property filled with debris.

The city can and has filed property liens with the county and those amounts must be paid if someone later purchases the property and wants a clear title.

However, there is often a months- or even years-long delay in money returning to the city and in some cases the city never gets its investment back.

In some cases the amount of money invested by the city is greater than the value of the property itself.

“There’s one property where the city will never get its money back because the lots aren’t worth what the city is owed,” he said. The city fields calls about tall grass and junk. Information from the public can be telephoned to the mayor’s office at 547-5511.