Chautauqua Building

Opinions about the historic Chautauqua Building and what to do with were discussed for an hour and a half at the Shelbyville City Council meeting on Monday.

The Shelbyville City Council met on Monday night and the menu was food trucks and Chautauqua frustration.

The most involved items on the agenda were saved until last. City Attorney Jack Kiley presented a new ordinance concerning the licensing and fees for food trucks in the city.

The ordinance says that a food truck (mobile food service) must have a permit. It must have a certificate of insurance that covers the service for $1 million bodily injury per person, $2 million per occurrence and not loss than $50,000 for property damage per occurrence.

The ordinance gives two options for licensing. It sets the fee for an annual permit at $100 (May 1 to April 30) and after May 1 prorated, but never less than $50. The other option is a temporary permit for up to 72 hours of operation costing $40. Fees shall be waived during designated community events.

The food services will be allowed to operate from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and only at designated vending areas to be determined by the city. They shall not operate within 100 feet of a brick and mortar food establishment.

After discussion about concerns over some private and public locations that may be used the ordinance was passed unanimously.

Then came discussion on the historic Chautauqua Building at Forest Park. The free, open, and frank discussion lasted for an hour and a half and didn’t bring a motion to be voted on or any new action.

Commissioner Martha Firnhaber was still not happy with the lack of firm numbers to relay to the taxpayers, and not happy with comments over her concerns.

“If it’s not truly accurate, what good is it to present to the voters?” Firnhaber said. “It feels like an attack and I’m just trying to get taxpayers an accurate account.”

Commissioner Mark Shanks kept trying focus on a project to save the structure with numbers they do have, but the public discussion would then get far afield from his focus and get mired in the same discussions that have swamped the topic the last 11 years.

When discussion turned to how the building would be used if the money was spent to save it, Commissioner Shanks said they came up with a plan before. He said the plan outlined several ways the building could be used.

The numbers Shanks wanted to focus on were provided by Trillium Dell, which made a presentation recently to the council: About $390,000 for repairs to the building. It also included $91,000 for roofing from numbers provided by Pell, a company that made a different presentation 11 years ago, plus estimates for some carpentry work at about $25,000. That is a total of just over $500,000.

Commissioner Thom Schafer reiterated that he still did not feel comfortable making the decision for everyone else for something that big. He also didn’t think it was the council’s job to run the operation of the Chautauqua Building. He suggested selling it for $1 to a private group.

“If it was privately owned, maybe more grant money would be available.” Schafer said.

After discussion about how to use the building, why it’s in the shape it’s in, what has been done to revamp it over the years, Commissioner Firnhaber reminded the room that there was another figure that had been presented, a number to tear the building down.

“We have a solid figure for demolition, $57,000,” Firnhaber said. “I don’t believe we have the money (to restore the building) without robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Members of the public expressed frustration over the lack of action over the last 11 years. A proponent of saving the building said the city is spinning its wheels. Another man said the city does not have an actionable plan.

“The reality is, if you can’t find a number, we’ll talk about this until we turn blue,” he said. “I’m ready to pull out my hair.”

Commissioner Shanks believes a decision needs to be made.

“Another survey (of the public) would just kick the can down the road again,” Shanks said. “I’d like to commit to saving the building.”

Almost two hours after the council meeting came to order, Mayor Jeff Johnson tried to move on to unfinished business, besides the Chautauqua Building.

In other business:

Colton Miller was unanimously approved for the 2019-2020 Student Coop Program as a part-time worker for the city.

A bid was unanimously approved to have Anderson out of Decatur demolish a building at 113 W South 2nd Street for $14,000.

Purchase of a new water well pump was unanimously approved for $5400

Purchase of a used bucket truck was approved at a cost is $19,000, contingent on passing inspection and not having a certain type of supercharge motor known to have problems. It was a vote of 4-1, Commissioner Firnhaber voting no.

Advertising for bids on roof replacement at the Senior Center Building was unanimously approved.

Letting bids to erect side walls in vaulted basements downtown was unanimously approved.

John Curtis can be reached at

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