The Watseka City Council heard the building inspector’s report at Tuesday’s code enforcement committee meeting.
Building Inspector Eric Brandt first updated everyone on the Gas Depot project, which he said is moving along.
“I’m sure everyone’s noticed a lot of dirt being moved around out there,” Brandt said. “The retention compensatory storage area is pretty much dug. I don’t believe anymore fill is going to be hauled out. They are going to start putting black dirt down and hopefully grass seed. The parking area is being paved. They’ve finished the sidewalk around the building. We should see some significant progress out front if we get some decent weather.”
As for the mitigation grant, Brant said he has talked to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources representative are saying that the reimbursement to the city could take another six weeks.
“He didn’t use the reason of the virus,” he said. “He said it has to do with the state’s fiscal year starting and re-establishing appropriations.:
Brandt told the committee the city is still owed $423,821.94. He said that in the early spring it was taking about eight weeks to get the reimbursements. The city is waiting on the reimbursements to be able to move along with the demolition of flooded houses approved for the grant program.
Mayor John Allhands said that he might contact state representatives to see if the money can be released sooner.
The residence at 303 S. Yount Ave., now belongs to the city, Brandt said. “We can move toward demolition as long as funds are available,” he said.
The aldermen said that there are some funds available for demolishing homes. Alderman Brandon Barragree said there is $40,500 available at the moment.
Brandt said the home at 200 W. Park Ave., has been demolished and the lot is clean all the way to the railroad tracks.
The home at 119 E. Ash was put out for bid. Brandt said there were three bids. The committee approved the Lee Farms Excavating bid of $10,490 by a vote of 9-0.
Brandt said there are two properties on Victory — 309 and 326. He said the city has a demolition for 309 and 326 is owned by the city. Brandt was advised to put those out for bid.
Brandt also talked to the committee about ordinance 2498. He said he wasn’t aware of the ordinance and was made aware of it when the ordinances were put on the city’s website.
“This is basically saying that no metal siding or metal cladding in B1 and B2 which is basically every business along Walnut and Jefferson. Metal siding is not allowed. I kind of feel like metal siding is a little restrictive. You can travel up and down Walnut Street and there’s metal siding on buildings all along there. I don’t know what the intention was when you passed the ordinance,” he said.
Brandt noted that limiting it to the old downtown area would be his recommendation.
Allhands said he thought that the recommendation was to not have metal warehouse-type buildings.
“As far as the store front, as far as decorative, I don’t think anyone has a problem with that,” he said. “It’s when it gets in to warehousing.”
“I don’t mind metal buildings that you can add cosmetic structure to the front so it looks nice,” Alderman Dave Mayotte said. “It’s a high fire hazard area where it’s got to have the fire walls in our downtown area, it’s got to be double fire stopped.”
Allhands said the council at the time was wanting to eliminate warehouse type buildings. “We’re looking at storefront, decorative, and not warehousing,” he said.
Alderman Don Miller said once you get out of the main business district “you have setbacks and everything else. It’s not zero lot line anymore, so consequently you have distance between” for fire protection.
Mayotte said the main thing is that the city doesn’t want a steel warehouse sitting on the main street.
Brandt was directed to talk with city attorney Joe Cainkar to clean up the language in the ordinance.
“There’s got to be something that says it aesthetically meets the rest of main street businesses,” Mayotte said.
Brandt said in another matter, that Faith Lutheran Church, which is on Lincoln, has applied for a facade grant. He said currently the church is outside the area designated for the facade program.
The church is wanting to paint the front area and work on the parking lot. They would be eligible for $1,100 if the boundaries were reset, he said. There is also a question about whether non-profits are eligible for the grant program.
The committee asked Brandt to talk to Cainkar to see about expanding the boundaries. It was suggested that the boundaries be set as the city limits and that commercial properties be allowed to participate.