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Council orders owner to raze Heck building

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Barr says she made ‘phenomenal’ progress

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

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CANNELTON – Cannelton’s Common Council voted April 8 to have a developer tear down a building that has been a problem for years.

Carolyn Barr appeared at the council’s regular meeting to seek an extension to a deadline that expired April 2 to get the Heck Building at Sixth and Taylor streets into a safe, presentable condition. The News reported July 26, 2010 the city’s board of public works and safety re-imposed a $1,000-a-month fine they deferred the previous December after Barr failed to get the historic structure into shape.

Bruce Myers, then a councilman, asked at a regular meeting Sept. 12, 2011 how much the fines amounted to then.

“Somewhere around $22,000,” then-Mayor Smokey Graves told him.

The owner of ReBarr Restoration said then she had made significant progress, including reroofing part of the building, and that she was working out insurance and other issues. The building is one of several in Cannelton for which she has responsibility. As the News reported Sept. 12, 2011, her company was ordered by Perry Circuit Court Judge Lucy Goffinet to demolish the former William Tell Hotel in Tell City.

At Monday’s meeting, city attorney John Werner brought up the issue, noting that it originated with the prior administration. The latest instruction from the city was “an absolute completion date of April 2 (which has) come and gone, and it’s not finished.”

That deadline was one of several Barr agreed to in a document she signed April 2, 2012. Within 45 days of that date, she was to have submitted architecturally drawn plans for the building’s renovation and provide a commitment from the general contractor to complete the project within the agreed-upon time frames. Work was to have substantially begun within 75 days, meaning, according to the agreement, “a crew capable of performing the work in a timely fashion will begin work o the site and continue to work diligently thereafter.”

Within 12 months, the exterior of the building was to be completed, including having the final exterior doors and windows installed.

“If Carolyn Barr accomplishes the foregoing renovation work or demolishes the building as agreed within these deadlines, the fines currently assessed against her would be forgiven, subject however to the approval of the Cannelton City Council,” the agreement also stipulates. “The mayor would recommend that the fines be forgiven.”

One more sentence appears above the signatures of Mayor Mary Snyder and Barr:

“It is understood that the deadlines set forth in this proposal are hard deadlines and there will be no extension given on any of them.”

Werner said at last week’s meeting Barr had invited Snyder to see progress that had been made.

“The mayor was there earlier today,” the lawyer said, and “did see that Carolyn has expended some money and done some work on the property.”

Emphasizing that he was not recommending the council grant an extension, Werner suggested if they did, “that you require Carolyn to give you a list, starting tonight, of the work she intends to have completed within the next 30 days … that you have the building inspector go down there on the day of the council meeting with that list … and see if that work’s been accomplished.”

The results would be reported to the council, Werner continued, and they would decide whether to grant further extensions. “It’s a month-to-month deal, and it’s going to take some of your time, but it allows you to keep your thumb on this thing every month.”

“It sounds to me like it might be a fair way to go about it,” Councilman Jack Harris said.

Tim McNeely identified himself as a 33-year contractor from Scottsburg and asked to speak on Barr’s behalf. Several thousand dollars worth of work had been accomplished, and the installation of new three-quarter-inch flooring was about 80-percent complete in addition to other accomplishments, he said.

“This won’t be a drug-out project,” he said. “We’re just asking for a little bit of time because of bad weather from March … one of the worst-coldest on record. We’re just praying that you would grant her an extension.”

“It is one of the most beautiful historical buildings, I believe, that you all have in your town,” he continued. “That’s one of the most magnificent fronts of any building here in the area.”

Werner asked if he could write a list during the council meeting of work that could be done before they next meet May 13.

Phillip Ball, the city’s zoning administrator and utilities manager, spoke up from the audience as that suggestion was being discussed.

“Is that the route you’re going to go?” he asked. “This wasn’t just a year deadline.” The project has been under way much longer than a year “and she has not met one deadline the city has handed to her ….”

“This is my second term,” Councilwoman Kim Reed interjected, “and I dealt with it for four years.”

Ball said other buildings Barr owns in the city have fallen into disrepair since she bought them.

The Castlebury Inn “was a useful business when she purchased it,” he said. “There are windows in that building that have been out in that building for over a year now,” Ball said. “Weather, birds, who know what’s getting in there? We’re letting perfectly good buildings fall down that she owns, and we’re going to give her another extension? Her history is that she is not going to do what she says she’s going to do … time and again, that’s been her history.”

Robb Moskos, who has bought and is improving buildings along Seventh Street, agreed.

“It’s almost unbelievable that we’d even think about giving another extension on this building,” he said. “As much as I love historic buildings, and I do, and I will go the extra effort to save one, we are way past that. It is a safety issue. I mean, I haven’t worked at Cannelton schools for over five years, and that building was like that (then).”

Barr told Moskos his buildings exhibit similar problems and said, “if I’d known then what I know now, I would have asked for 10 years, as Mr. Moskos did, because they’re similar projects.”

“I’m sorry, Rob, but your buildings are not complying, either,” she told him. “You’ve got safety issues. There are doors open; they’ve been open the entire time you’ve owned that property.”

She didn’t want to get into a tit-for-tat, she said, adding, “we all want the same thing here. I know I don’t have a good track record.”

With a new contractor, she added, “if you all will give us the chance, we will show you in 30 days what we can do.”

She invited any council member who was interested to visit the building “and see what we can do in a very short amount of time.” She asked if the council wants to see buildings torn down.

Councilwoman Lynn Fulkerson said no, but Barr had been given extensions, “and then I keep hearing that you keep buying more buildings, and I’m thinking, ‘why are you investing money in more buildings when you should be investing in the buildings that you have?’ ”

Barr was at the meeting to discuss only the Heck building, she said, “and I’d like to keep this civil instead of turning it into personal attacks.”

“I will say, she’s put some money into it,” the mayor said when asked if she had a recommendation for the council. “There is a floor in it.”

Barr again invited council members to visit and see the progress she’s made, and to table the issue.

“You can table it if you want to,” Reed said. “My decision won’t change. I’m sorry.”

“It has been a year,” Councilman Melvin McBrayer said. “Specs were set. We said that would be the final thing. The past council talked about it extensively … and we have talked about it even when I was mayor, and here we are, five years, six years later, and we’re still in the same position we were in six years ago. Are we saying one month is going to make a difference?”

“What if it did?” Barr asked.

“I don’t really think it will,” McBrayer replied.

Barr described the work that has been accomplished, including preparatory work necessary before actual rebuilding could begin, as “tremendous” and “phenomenal.”
Harris said he thought Werner’s suggestion to list work that can be done before the council’s next meeting was a good one.

“What is a month?” he asked.

“I hate to lose another building,” Fulkerson said. “That’s what’s so bad about this.” Barr’s track record, however, which includes buildings in Tell City and other towns, shows “things just don’t get done when you buy things, they get in worse repair,” she added.

“Fair enough,” Barr responded. “I’m telling you this is the game-changer right here, and I don’t think asking for a month to show you that it’s changed is asking too much.”
Werner advised her that she could invest more money in the project, then lose it.

“You should be careful here tonight what you ask for,” he told her.

“I think we’d save her a lot of money if we didn’t let her finish,” Reed said.

She offered a motion to deny the extension.

Harris was alone in voting no.

“You have 30 days to bring the building down, Carolyn,” Snyder told her.

“The building’s been a wreck for 20 years,” Reed said. “A child is going to get hurt in there … I don’t want to go to one of my friend’s kid’s funeral.”

The News contacted Barr Thursday, but she said she was in her lawyer’s office and would call back. She called back after this reporter left the office and an attempt to call her Friday morning was unsuccessful.