MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Dilapidated Building Commission met Tuesday and discussed a number of issues including a fire escape on a commercial building; 500 N. McKenzie St. also known as the Round Hill Mansion; and the old Mount Vernon Middle School.
A run-down fire escape at 6 W. Chestnut St. caught the attention of Code Enforcement Officer Larry Fogle. Because it is a commercial building it does not come under the jurisdiction of the city. Fogle advised the building owner the fire escape needed to be replaced and it required a state permit to do so.
“The issue there was the west fire escape was in a very dilapidated condition,” he said. “This was brought to our attention by Assistant Fire Chief Chris Menapace. We advised them it needed to go to the state for a permit to do the repairs. They got confused somewhere along the line and talked to someone at the state who told them they didn’t need a permit. So the owner ended up creating a fire escape that may well work — it has a new pressure treated lumber landing — and heavy duty aluminum ladders. We are still insisting on seeing a state permit because we don’t want to be responsible because our codes don’t cover it.”
Fogle said Menapace looked over the fire escape and deemed it suitable for the time being but there would have to be changes made.
“But we’re not going to bless it,” Fogle added. “It should have been done with a state permit in the first place.”
Mount Vernon Fire Dept. Chief Shawn Christy spoke about some of his frustrations in this situation and others like it that come up from time to time.
“I just want to reiterate a topic that comes up here and there,” he said. “I feel the same frustration of the community and business leaders because we don’t have a building department or there isn’t any department that can be a mediator between the two groups (building owners and the state). This is an example of someone spending all this money and then we have to come back and say it’s not good enough or it has to be redone. I would like to see a county or building code for a situation like this.” Commission chairman Dave Glass said he thought there would be some kind of local building code established somewhere down the road.
“Every commercial building owner knows they get their building permits from the state,” Glass said. “There’s been a lot of discussion around Mount Vernon and Knox County for years about a code. Sometimes there is some support and sometimes there isn’t, so it’s never been approved. But some day we’re going to need it. Every populated county has one now.”
“And when you think about it, it’s to protect the people who are doing the construction,” Mount Vernon City Law Director Bill Smith added. “They can count on somebody who is repairing the house that it is permitted and being done right.”
The commission took up the question of 500 N. McKenzie St., the Round Hill Mansion, which has become run down and in need of some repair to come up to the commission’s standards.
“The owner hasn’t been very responsive to us,” Fogle told the commission. “As we looked at it a few months ago there were concerns about the roof and some gutter material falling off the house. It’s our opinion now that it’s not a dangerous building. He has done some minimal amount of maintenance.”
The commission decided to move the building to the continue to monitor category.
The old middle school was also discussed by the commission. Glass reported he had done some investigation and found that state building permits do not expire as long as work continues to be done. The owner received state permits for work on the roof and to replace windows. The acquisition of the state permits by the property owner created a construction site which took the property out of the jurisdiction of the commission.
In other business:
•The commission reported seven buildings previously condemned were either demolished or repaired to the satisfaction of the commission.
•Glass reported there were no properties under consideration for condemnation at this time.
•Charges were filed in municipal court by Smith on one property, 4 South St.
•The commission referred one property, 203 N. Division St., to the law director to review for possible criminal charges.