Council continues to pursue solution for Dunbar site

Authored by Jim Langham on Apr 16, 2014

Berne City Attorney Dave Baumgartner told council members at Monday’s bi-monthly meeting that contamination at the site of the former Dunbar Furniture Factory might not be quite as bad as originally suspected.
Berne Mayor Bill McKean concurred, according to information he had received. However, there is plenty of asbestos and other problems to deal with in order to eventually demolish the ruins.
“We have not received an official report from the second phase,” said McKean. “Asbestos is a problem there like we figured it was. We’ve have to hire a professional outfit to clean up the asbestos.”
Baumgartner said that the possibility of acquiring the site in order to consider plans for clean-up will come in steps. He noted that there had been a tax sale a year ago and no one was interested in purchasing.
Now, on April 24, there will be a certificate sale.
“The top bidder can get a certificate,” said Baumgartner. “It would then take 120 days to get a title to it.
“We know that there is a significant amount of asbestos there,” Baumgartner said. “We have to look at that ourselves to see if we want to get involved.”
Baumgartner said that he is currently dealing with attorney Mark Burry concerning the matter.
“The report could have been worse,” said McKean. “Somehow we will do what we have to do to get rid of that building. We can’t do anything until we get the asbestos removed.”
Controller Dave Burson and Jalisa Abnet were present to request a C-F1 Approval for Smith Brothers of Berne, Inc. Burson said that the company currently employs 392 workers but anticipates adding 20 to 25 employees over the course of this year.
Burson noted that it is anticipated that completion of the current building project should take place by Oct. 17, 2014. Once that is completed, the controller said that four lines would be moved to the cellular manufacturing section.
Of all completed projects for Smith Brothers, personal property has cost $1,839,505 and real estate has cost $4,496,288.
In other matters, the city is looking at acquiring two acres in the middle of the TIF District located on the city’s northeast side.
“These two acres, including houses, is like an island in the middle of the TIF District,” said McKean. “A special meeting of the re-development commission produced a recommendation for the council to purchase those acres.”
Baumgartner said that before any move can be made on the property, two area realtors, Kim Johnson of Ideal Realty and Matt Halterman of Oswalt Realty in Bluffton, will be submitting an appraisal of the property.
“If we have a factory interested, we could sell all six acres together,” said McKean. “The re-development commission recommended that we buy it. We already own all of the land around it.”
Ron Dull, representing the Lehman Park Board, noted that there will be a park cleanup day on May 3, with a rain makeup day on May 10.


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