Structural Engineer to Evaluate North Judson Building Before Demolition

Demolition of a partially collapsed North Judson building is on hold until a structural engineer can be brought in to determine whether it’s safe for the owner to remove personal items from inside.

Part of the roof and upper floor of the structure at 205 and 207 Lane Street fell in last Thursday afternoon. The town sought an emergency demolition order to tear the structure down without having to go back through the bid process.

Town attorney Justin Schramm and Clerk-Treasurer Alicia Collins appeared before Pulaski Circuit Judge Michael Shurn this morning, along with property owner Doug Cassel and his attorney, Todd Wallsmith. Shurn is hearing the case after Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall recused himself.

Cassel says he wants to retrieve personal property stored inside the building before it is torn down. Items include a 1978 Cadillac El Dorado, wheels, tires, tools and paperwork, including the lease he signed with his late mother to keep items there. He adds he’s willing to assume liability for entering the building.

Schramm pointed out Cassel did not respond last June when the town filed an unsafe building action against him, nor did he appear at a hearing last November in Starke Circuit Court. The town was appointed the receiver of the building during that proceeding. Schramm adds the town is not allowing anyone to enter the building due to concerns for public health and safety. He’s concerned further collapse will damage other nearby structures.

Cassel says his items are in a section of the building that is still fully intact. He adds it will take about two weeks to remove them. He also indicated he’s willing to pay a reasonable cost for a pre-demolition study to determine whether Cassel can safely retrieve his items.

Judge Shurn agreed the building needs to be torn down as soon as possible and that Cassel can retrieve his items if it is safe to do so. Meanwhile Lane Street in front of the building is closed to traffic.

Schramm and Collins plan to speak with town superintendent Marshall Hortsman about hiring a structural engineer. The building was constructed in 1922. Many older buildings contain asbestos, which will require additional measures be taken during the demolition.

The North Judson Town Council meets in regular session tonight at 6:30