Roanoke in position to take possession of scrutinized property

Dave Tucker, president of the Roanoke Town Council, announced at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3, that the town was in position to take possession of a property on Seminary Street that has been under council’s scrutiny for years due to building code violations.

Tucker reported that the Huntington County Commissioners had voted to deed the property in question, 775 Seminary Street, to the town. After the property failed to sell at a tax sale in September, it became eligible for the commissioners’ sale this coming spring. Rather than list the property in the sale, however, the commissioners elected to get the ball rolling on turning the property over to the town, which had interest in acquiring it.

In June 2016, the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development conducted an inspection of the property and documented several violations of town and state building codes. DCD then generated an order of enforcement, which outlined the violations and prescribed corrective measures.

Failure to resolve those violations in the years that followed led council to level thousands of dollars in fines at the property’s occupant, Casandra Emley. Lack of payment on those fines resulted in them being assessed as liens against the property and added to property tax bills; failure to pay those bills in full led to the property being included in the aforementioned tax sale.

Tucker noted that the legal process that must play out before the town can officially take possession of the property is a lengthy one. If that process goes in the town’s favor, it could assume control of the property by June, speculated Tucker.

On another matter, council responded to a citizen’s concerns regarding the estimated cost of cleaning up a contaminated lagoon in town. The citizen, Dick Smart, balked at the price tag of $2 million to $3 million that Superintendent of Operations Phil Hibbert had mentioned at council’s meeting on Nov. 19.

“I just don’t want to see the customers of this community pay that kind of a sewer bill for something that we didn’t do,” stated Smart.

The lagoon in question is near the town’s wastewater treatment plant. It is contaminated with heavy metals that were dumped there by a former business in town, C and M Plating, several years ago.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management wants to see the town start cleaning up the lagoon. To that end, IDEM requested that the town send it a letter by the end of November laying out a timeline for the lagoon’s remediation. Councilman Ryan Carroll noted that the town had asked IDEM for a year in the letter to formulate a timeline and was awaiting a response to that request.

The Roanoke Volunteer Fire Department was given permission to spend up to $11,500 on the purchase of a generator for the fire station. The unit will be purchased from Bolinger’s Propane Service, in Warren, and be installed in an alcove between the fire station, located at 126 High St., and the building at 112 N. Main St.

During power outages, the generator will run the fire station, as well as the former town hall building at 126 N. Main St., enabling it to be used as a warming center, if need be.

Firefighter Macy McClellan said the generator would be an asset to the station.

“At the fire station, obviously, we have a lot of issues when the power goes out – getting trucks out the door, getting doors up … it extends our response time if we don’t have a backup generator,” he said.

In other business:

– With the chance for snowy weather increasing as December proceeds, Carroll voiced concerns about the town’s snow-plowing vehicles being able to navigate cul-de-sacs in town where cars are parked on the street. Carroll suggested that the board explore drafting an ordinance that would require vehicles to be off the streets in cul-de-sacs when snow needs to be plowed. Council decided to table the issue for further discussion.

– Council reminded citizens that pieces of cut-down trees do not qualify as brush and will not be picked up by the town for disposal.

– Carroll requested that the Roanoke Police Department monitor the town’s trash receptacles on Main Street. The receptacles, he said, were being misused, with citizens utilizing them as dumpsites for trash from their residences. That misuse, said Carroll, was causing the receptacles to overflow, which was resulting in trash blowing around downtown.

– The board approved a new service contract with Huntington County Economic Development for $3,000.