Local Leaders Worried About Safety After Building Collapse

By Stephanie Parkinson

July 9, 2013 Updated Jul 9, 2013 at 5:33 PM EDT

NORTHEAST INDIANA (www.incnow.tv) - The building collapse that happened in Warren has other communities thinking about safety in their downtowns.

"There's not a mayor in Northeast Indiana that doesn't think to him, or herself, that could have happened in our downtown," said Mayor Ted Ellis, City of Bluffton.

Over the weekend a century old building collapsed in the small northeast Indiana community of Warren. It happened just after the Salamonie Summer Festival Parade ended.

For Ellis, he fears the buildings in his downtown are in the same shape.

"I suspect many of these buildings, which we built in the 1900s, early 1900s, are unsafe and we don't know it yet," said Ellis.

Bluffton's mayor has seen several of the historic downtown buildings in his community perish from fires. He admits it's sad to see, but as times change he believes losing them may be for the better.

"Father time has a way of just eroding the safety and the soundness of a lot of these buildings. For some, they've reached the end of their lifespan," said Ellis.

In Grant County's Van Buren the downtown looks almost like a ghost town.

"Everyone is going to the bigger cities and we haven't had any success in getting small business, or any kind of business into town," said Michelle Sexton, Clerk/Treasurer, Town of Van Buren.

For that reason, town officials in Van Buren are wary of what the future of their downtown will be.

"A couple of them we'd like to just tear down completely because they're so far gone that for someone to go in, it would probably cost them twice as much to fix them up as (to) tear it down and rebuild," said Sexton.

"We're doing everything we can, that we can afford, to keep as many of those facades and those old buildings as we can, but I think we need to face up to the fact that sometimes time just passes and we need to adjust to something a little different," said Ellis.

Right now there are no regular inspections of these older buildings in many of the local communities. Mayor Ellis says when things go wrong, like they have a fire, a structural engineer is brought in. Other than that many of these buildings sit unused with a very uncertain future.

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