St. Joe County close to launching problem property demolition program

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- Some residents are jockeying for position as St. Joseph County prepares to launch a problem property demolition program.

The county is looking to play catch up—on cleaning up problem properties and it is getting plenty of suggestions about which properties should go first.

“It was condemned in 2006 and it’s been sitting there that way. People have been dumping trash there at the building and it’s just deplorable,” said Crumstown resident Darlene Ralph.

Ralph attended today’s meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners to present petitions she gathered in support of the demolition of the former Fitz’s Garage at 59814 Crumstown Highway.

“With 212 signatures on it for a small community it’s pretty good,” said Ralph. “We think we have a good chance of getting that building down now.”

The garage doors caved in long ago, and the roof collapsed. The weeds around the property have grown as high as an elephant’s eye.

“I sent them a letter on July the 31st of 2013 and quoted a statute that says the building department has jurisdiction to abate a nuisance and this is exactly what it is,” said South Bend attorney Ed Chapleau.

Chapleau has been fighting for nearly a year to try and convince the county to address the problem property that lies next door to his client.

It’s an old abandoned gas station at 63553 U.S. 31 South in Centre Township.

“And it’s a nuisance if young children ever go over there and play around they could get injured,” said Chapleau.

There are a total of about 60 problem properties scattered across St. Joseph County that qualify for attention. Officials have thus far identified the 16 that they feel are in the worst shape. It’s hoped that the list will be finalized as early as next week.

“We're going through the motions and hopefully those bid packages will be going out in the next month or two.
And hopefully it’s all done by fall,” said Commissioner Thomas.

“There’s a lot of properties around St. Joe County that need to be addressed,” said County Commission President Andrew Kostielney. “I think it’s just one of those things it, just kind of been put off and put off and we’re to a stage now where I don’t think we can put it off any longer just from a public health and safety standpoint.”

Right now, both the old gas station on U.S. 31 south and the former mechanic’s garage on Crumstown Highway are both on “the list.”

“It’s definitely should be near, stay near the top, because it is on a major highway, it’s not on some back road that no one ever sees,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Dave Thomas of the Crumstown building. “With the petition came a letter that showed 37,000 drivers pass the residence every month.”

The current properties on the demolition list are:

63553 U.S. 31 South in Centre Township
67051 S.R. 331 in Madison Township
22900 Ardmore Trail in Portage Township
56036 Butternut Road in Portage Township
55525 Fairview Avenue in Portage Township
24675 Fillmore Road in Portage Township
24715 Fillmore Road in Portage Township
24825 Fillmore Road in Portage Township
24908 Fillmore Road in Portage Township
24978 Fillmore Road in Portage Township
22816 Hartzer Avenue in Portage Township
24718 Nash Road in Portage Township
55968 Sundown Road in Portage Township
59814 Crumstown Highway in Warren Township
54403 Quince Road in Warren Township
54427 Quince Road in Warren Township.


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