July 15, 2013

Keeping an eye on Sixth St.

Building commissioner concerned about likely taxpayer burden

by Mitchell Kirk

---- — The physical and economic fate of three adjoining buildings on the 200 block of South Sixth Street continues to hang in the balance as Logansport officials explore how to remedy a situation that was caused by one building's partial collapse earlier this year.

The east portion of the building at 208 S. Sixth St. was torn down in April after its northeast corner collapsed two days earlier. As it is a shared structure with 210 and 214 S. Sixth St., which also have structural problems of their own, Logansport Building Commissioner Bill Drinkwine said whatever is done to 208 will have "consequential effects" on the other two and may come as a burden to taxpayers.

The building at 208 is vacant and owned by Manuel and Reinalda Loeza of Lombard, Ill. According to Drinkwine, the Loezas submitted an engineering report in January that was required after the city issued an unsafe building notice on the property in December. They were unable to make the repairs outlined in the report.

An emergency partial demolition was required in April after the east portion of the building collapsed. The owners were unable to pay for that as well, so a lien has been placed on the property for more than $50,000.

Shortly after the demolition, the city enlisted the assistance of Silver Creek Engineering, Indianapolis. The company provided three recommendations on how to address the properties.

One option suggests constructing shear walls, which are built perpendicular to existing walls and tie into them, to stabilize 208 and repairing the roof at a cost estimate of $58,000.

Another calls for demolishing the third story of 208, converting its floor to a roof and constructing shear walls throughout the building to stabilize it for an estimate of $67,100. The third option offers demolishing 208 and stabilizing the adjoining buildings for an estimate of $75,200.

Drinkwine recently invited all of the property owners to a meeting to discuss the options. The Loezas did not attend, but Kevin J. Crook, owner of American Family Insurance-Kevin J. Crook Agency Inc. at 214 S. Sixth St. and Virginia Cooke, owner of 210 S. Sixth St., did attend. While the discussion was amicable, Drinkwine said, the group could not come to a decision.

One concern Drinkwine said he has is the marketability of the property at 208 with the financial state it's in. On top of the $51,000 lien it has on it, it also has a tax debt of about $54,000.

"Can that building be marketed for [$55,000] to $67,000?" Drinkwine asked the board, referring to the price range of the options that pertain to preserving 208. "I don't believe it can."

Drinkwine also questioned the justification of using tax dollars to remedy the situation.

"On market sense and spending taxpayers' money, we can't get the money back on any scenario that we do," he said.

Drinkwine went on to say if the option that involves demolishing 208 and stabilizing 210 is pursued, then possibly a contract could be worked out with Cooke, who is currently trying to sell the property, for the city's investment to be reimbursed if and when the property sells.

Drinkwine also said the city could approach each property owner under the unsafe building ordinance, which they are all in violation of, to attain remediation. However, knowing it is unlikely the owners of 208 will cooperate, Drinkwine questioned whether that would be fair to the other owners.

The possibility of going through the owners' and the city's insurance providers to help with costs was also discussed at the meeting.

Drinkwine said while he hasn't spoken with the owners' insurance providers, it is his understanding that insurance companies will not file a claim until something happens to the buildings, acting in a "reactive, not proactive" manner.

Gary Hayden, owner of B&G Construction Co., who is currently preparing an estimate for improvements to the property at 210, said he has contacted Cooke's insurance provider and was given a similar response.

Citing the complexity of the matter, the board ultimately decided to take the issue under advisement so options can continue to be explored until the best decision can be made.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or