The Shelbyville Chautauqua building may still get a chance at a new life as the City Council agreed Monday evening to hire an engineering firm to assess the project.
The council agreed to have BWC, a Decatur engineering firm, begin the first two of a 4-phase plan which includes measuring everything, making recommendations of what should be done and giving an estimate. Estimated cost of the phases is $38,000, which was suggested to be paid from the $150,000 already raised by the Chautauqua committee. BWC has experience in these types of buildings, having worked on the Firestone building in Decatur.
"With Phases 1 and 2 we will have a better idea and make a better decision (about the building)," said Mayor Jeff Johnson.
Former Chautauqua committee chairman Wayne Gray, told the council that steps need to be taken now to shore up the building to reduce the risk of collapse during the winter months.
The 110-year-old building suffered a partial roof collapse during the late 1970s and temporary repair work was done at that time. Now the replaced beam is twisting, threatening another collapse. Because of the threat, liability insurance on the Chautauqua has been cancelled and the structure has been closed to further use.
"The City should consider that as new damage and consider that it should be handled outside of funds raised by the Chautauqua committee," Gray said, suggesting that the City foot the expenses of shoring the beam.
A sub-committee of the former Chautauqua committee is currently developing a business plan for the building's usage and financial support.
"We will look at the business plan and determine from there if tax money should be used," said Johnson.
"A decision needs to be made soon," Gray answered back. "We've waited nine months since the decision to possible tear down the building. We've done nothing as a city. Things have not gotten better, but it's probably in worse condition than it was when it was shut down."
We as a city have to do something soon. If not now, it may not be there next year," he added.
Other audience members also voiced their comments during the 30-minute discussion.
Mark Shanks, owner of Monical's Pizza, said that Shelbyville would benefit from the tax revenue brought into town by visitors to local events at the Chautauqua. He cited the increase in business throughout town during the Scarecrow Daze earlier this month
"Using the building would bring more people into town, resulting in more activity for businesses." Shanks said.
"We hope you don't think the city is going to back away completely from this," Johnson said. "Everything that's been done at the park has been a cooperative effort with the city and other organizations - the pool, the softball field, the Sunken Garden and the athletic building."
Gray noted that the business plan for the Chautauqua, which includes usage to raise funds to maintain the building, will be presented to the council in December.
"It can be money for the city if it is repaired, usable, and properly managed," Gray said.
Commissioner Gib Smart said he was not sure the people of Shelbyville want to save the building.
"You (Chautauqua committee) have had five years and have raised $150,000. I'm not sure the community supports what you're trying to do," Smart said.
"At some point the city council is going to have to decide whether you are going to invest any money in that building or not because it's awful hard to raise the kind of money that it's going to take to do the repairs," Gray said.
"I know you've got money available and I know you don't want to spend it because of what might happen here and there. But this is an important piece of property for the city. I think you need to make some kind of plans or commitment soon."
In other action, the Council approved the extension of a bond agreement with Shelby Memorial Hospital.
"It's like refinancing. You have to do the paperwork again," said city attorney Jack Kiley.
The Council also approved city clerk Carrie Jones to sign the agreement as both city clerk and acting city treasurer.
The ordinance allowing commercial use of the brush disposal area of the city dump was also approved. Fees will be set for commercial users at the beginning of the year.