Just when we all thought facade work was done ...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Credit that old baseball philosopher Yogi Berra with providing the right perspective for the facade portion of the ongoing Greencastle Stellar project.

"It's never over 'til it's over," Yogi once famously advised.

Of course, he was talking about a baseball pennant race and not a government-funded construction project.

But a month after the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission asked for a drum roll to accompany news that Phase I of the facade project was finished and only "odds and ends" remained among the 15 storefronts in the first phase, board members learned it is indeed "never over 'til it's over."

Work still remains to be done at two locations, Almost Home on the north side of the square and the Vine Street (or west side) of the Washington Street building owned by Lester and Judy Wilson, the commission learned Wednesday evening.

"We all thought we were finished," Mayor Sue Murray sighed before explaining that another emergency exit will be needed at Almost Home, while five awnings still have to be installed on the side of Wilsons' building.

At Almost Home, the facade work eliminated the center entry-exit and the awkward interior set of steps down into the west dining room, replacing it with large floor-to-ceiling front windows.

However, when a State Fire Marshal's Office official made a recent inspection, he asked what had been done to replace that alternate exit.

After Greencastle Building Commissioner Dave Varvel reviewed the state code, it was determined that another means of egress out the back, including handicapped access, would work as an emergency exit.

Since the oversight occurred during the facade work, the Redevelopment Commission agreed it should be funded as part of the project.

Specs were sent to three bidders with Summit Builders submitting a $5,540 bid that was less than expected to rebuilt the staircase, add the access and provide emergency lighting and signage.

"In hindsight," Redevelopment Commission President Erika Gilmore noted, "this is a big 'duh.'"

In other words, it never should have been overlooked by the engineer and contractor.

However, no other situations like it have occurred at any of the other Phase I properties.

Meanwhile, the Wilsons' work was another oversight in which the five awnings were shown on the plans all parties signed but not ordered to be installed.

Trees along Vine Street will have to come out to accommodate the awnings, it was noted.

Mayor Murray said in response to several queries that the trees will also be removed in front of Shuee's on the west side of the square to better accommodate the awnings there.

Meanwhile, moving to Phase II of the facade work, the scope will involve 15 properties and 10 separate property owners, City Attorney Laurie Hardwick said.

However, with less funding available for Round 2, cuts need to be made in the proposed work, she said. It is currently figured as a $378,000 deficit if everything proposed is undertaken.

"It's important to remember," Mayor Murray reminded the commission, "we don't get this chance again. We're not going to get another grant for facades."

And the difference the work has made is the downtown is certainly apparent.

"It's visible and palpable and I would hate for us not to finish," the mayor added.

There is even a list of alternate work that seems improbable to undertake at this point. Property owners would like to see those efforts done, though, at an additional $546,000, Hardwick said.

"These are extremely old buildings that are in need of extensive repair," Hardwick added.

"Again we have one time and one time only (to do it right), and this is it," commission member Gwen Morris said, stressing the buildings that need structural improvements or support for safety reasons should be the project priority.

"Nobody's going to want to go into a building that's falling down," Morris added.

With a couple members absent, it was suggested that the decision on Phase II facade work should be done at a special meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1 at City Hall.

With a full board present (Gary Lemon and Tanis Monday were absent Wednesday), Gilmore believes the decision "will ultimately come down to much more philosophical questions."

A key thing to remember, Gilmore added, "is we are making an investment in the community."

Drew Brattain and ex-officio member Denise Sigworth were also in attendance for the one-hour meeting at City Hall, along with Executive Director Bill Dory of the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center.

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  • Have any of you had to clean up the mess that the trees leave? The debris from them gets tracked into the shops, collects in the sidewalk groves and into every corner available. Goes into the storm drains etc. GET THE POINT. They are in bad need of trimming, overgrown and full of dead limbs. Store fronts are hidden by them. Not a good choice. The mulch that is added each year is to high. Old should be removed before adding new. On the plus side eventually they will die because of the excess mulch.

    -- Posted by dumpsterdiva2 on Fri, Sep 26, 2014, at 10:32 AM
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