Sibley building was being checked on every 30 days before collapse

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Since fire officials believe strong winds may have played a part in the Sibley building's collapse Friday, it begs the question, why wasn't the structure up to code before it hit this point?

"So, we were monitoring it," South Bend Code Enforcement Deputy Director Marlaina Johns said. "Every 30 days, we would go out and check on it. He had a repair order with us, so because he had given us a plan of what he was going to do with the building, we actually had the case status as repair order.”

Even though it was ordered for repair, the building still seemed like it could be dangerous, so code enforcement worked with the owner to make sure safety measures were in place.

"When there’s an owner we’re not in communication with and there is a safety concern, then the city will go up and put barricades or the cones or fencing," Johns said. "Just depends on what the situation is. But we do try to work with the owners first to get the owners to put it up.

The reason they’d put up fencing first instead of just fixing or demolishing the building is that bringing buildings up to code or demolishing them doesn't come cheap to either the city or the building owner. Because of that, things don't happen as quickly as the city would like.

"Dumping fees alone make it a really large project," Johns said. "But then, you have to have the heavy equipment and you have to have the personnel to handle it and everything like that, so it is a huge, huge process.”

There are plenty of other buildings like Sibley. Code enforcement says they have their eyes on those buildings every 30 days, just in case, but they can’t catch everything.

“Our inspectors, they’re great," Johns said. "They’re out in the neighborhoods, but they can’t be everywhere all the time. So, if somebody has a concern about a building next to them or even a house next to them that they feel might be a safety concern, reach out to our department, and then we would be more than happy to come out and take a look and just assess the situation.”

Johns said the owner of Sibley has had great communication with the city and is working on fixing up the situation. Until then, Tutt Street will still have a partial closure.