Merrillville officials on vacant buildings: ‘It will get better’
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 1, 2013 9:50PM
The former Carriage House antique store and the hobby shop behind it are two long vacant, boarded up buildings on 73rd Avenue in Merrillville that are frustrating residents and the Town Council. | Karen Caffarini/Post-Tribune
Updated: October 3, 2013 6:14AM
MERRILLVILLE — Resident Timothy Mihalik came to this week’s Town Council meeting to complain about several abandoned buildings in his neighborhood, only to discover that town officials are just as frustrated as he is over this continuing problem.
“We get at least one call a day about abandoned properties. It will change. It will get better,” said Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey.
Guernsey told Mihalik town officials are more frustrated than he is over vacant buildings, many of which have fallen into disrepair.
Mihalik, who built his house in the 7200 block of Pierce Street in 1972, said a house near his has been vacant for eight years.
“The gutters are falling, windows and doors are boarded and moss and mold are growing inside,” Mihalik said.
He also pointed out that the former Carriage House, hobby shop and a house and the former Old Mill restaurant — all located in the newly-designated historic district — have long been vacant as well.
Mihalik said he called a realtor and was told anyone wanting to buy the Carriage House, hobby shop and house, listed together for $100,000, would have to tear them down.
“Can’t any of these properties be told they have to clean up?” Mihalik asked. “Can’t we hold the banks responsible?”
Council members said they want to keep some of the old, historic buildings such as the Carriage House. They also noted the Old Mill is in foreclosure.
Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, said there are several tragic stories in town, including a mansion on 97th Avenue that was formerly owned by a doctor.
“The house is in an absolutely deplorable condition. Lines are falling down, doors are broken, the house is gutted. Even with a mansion in the panhandle, people will up and leave,” Pettit said.
“People let them go so long they need to be torn down,” he said.
Zoning director Dorinda Gregor said the town could consider adopting a registry of vacant homes as others have successfully done. She said this would not be to generate revenue, but to allow the town to track down abandoned homes and act on them quickly.