MOUNT VERNON — The March meeting of the Mount Vernon Dilapidated Buildings Commission focused on two main issues. The first was the continuing saga of the old middle school at 301 N. Mulberry St.
Safety-Service Director Dave Glass told the commission the main concern with the building was that the mandated replacement of the windows in the building was not complete. The commission had required the owner to have the window project done by Feb. 1.
“I think we are overdue for another tour of the building,” said commission member Brian Benick of the Knox County Health Department.
At the February meeting, Mount Vernon City Councilman Mike Hillier noted there were more than 100 windows covered with plywood that he characterized as not having been refitted with new windows. Benick noted at that meeting it was his understanding some of the installed windows were covered with the plywood, and that did not give a true indication of the progress in replacing the windows.
Hillier reiterated his contention on Tuesday that work on the project was not progressing as ordered by the commission.
“I think we need to make it very clear with Mr. Bechtel, if there are new windows behind this plywood, it should come off,” he said. “I understand your point about vandalism and all that, but going back to what I said many months ago, vandalism is a city police problem. Putting new windows in is what he needs to be doing. I don’t think the neighbors care that he put in new windows. The plywood needs to be removed if it’s covering new windows.”
Hillier added that the commission should be prepared to have a search warrant ready for its next tour of the building because the owner had not taken representatives through the whole building on previous tours, only showing them what he wanted them to see.
“If you see the work is not done,” he said, “then charges should be filed. To be happy with work being done is not enough, to my mind.”
The commission also discussed two other properties, 510 E. Gambier St. and 305 N. Norton St., both owned by Bill Spitzer, who was in attendance to answer questions from the commission. The main point of interest was the East Gambier Street property, which suffered from fire damage and was listed as a new property to be considered for condemnation. The commission asked Spitzer for an update on work being done on the property and if he had a timeline for completion of the work.
“We’ve got electric service into the building, although it’s not hooked up yet,” Spitzer said. “There were several tons of debris on the ground floor that we hauled out as best we could with several feet of snow. The structure of the building is sound, the floors are OK and the framework is OK.”
Benick told Spitzer he sent him a letter a week ago about garbage behind the house, in front of the garage, and that the garbage was still there. Spitzer told Benick the snow had hindered removal of the garbage, which he said was left by the previous tenant. He said he would remove it this week.
“You know what this commission’s concern is,” Glass told Spitzer. “When’s it going to get fixed? And after we have that discussion, we’re going to need it in black and white. I’m assuming we’re going ahead with the condemnation.”
“I don’t have a timeline,” Spitzer said. “I do not have a schedule. I can have one for you before the next meeting.”
The commission gave Spitzer until April 2 to provide a written timeline to the commission so it could be evaluated before the April meeting.
In other business:
•The commission voted to condemn the other three buildings newly considered for condemnation. Those were a garage at 104 S. Center St.; a vandalized and fire damaged building at 4 South St.; and a barn at 104 Walnut St.
•Charges were filed in Municipal Court against properties at 914 Howard St., 301 N. Norton St. and 305 N. Norton St.
•A garage at 700 W. High St. was reported demolished.
•The commission heard two properties at 14 Cottage St. and 11 Marion St. were slated for demolition. These two buildings are being demolished with funds provided by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and will not be done with taxpayer funds. Another property at 12 McKinley St. will be demolished using city funds. This demolition was held up because the Mount Vernon fire and police departments were using the building for training purposes.
•The commission continues to monitor eight properties, most of which have minor problems such as loose bricks or broken windows.