Community staple and tornado shelter in Chelsea, Indiana closing

CHELSEA, IN (WAVE) - A store that sheltered dozens of kids from a tornado and helped coordinate volunteer efforts is closing this week.

The owner of the Chelsea General Store, Tony Williams, said he's being harassed by the head of the Jefferson County Health Department.  The Administrator said he needs a new septic system.

The store has become the center of the community since it opened in 2007.

"It's real convenient for all the people who live out here," said shopper Carlos May.

Williams opened his doors as a storm shelter for three school bus loads of children.

"One of the bus loads, they all signed it," said Williams as he showed off a card signed by the students.

Still after five years Williams said he is closing down.

"I feel like I failed the community," said Williams who talks about customers as friends.

There is still a steady flow of customers, but they're spending less. Williams is also battling with Ralph Armand, Administrator for the Jefferson County Health Department.

"Ralph Armand is a tyrant," said Williams  "I've never seen such little compassion from one person in all my life."

Williams spends hundreds of dollars a month pumping sewage because of a leak he said his engineer could fix for free.

Armand disagrees and said he isn't harassing him or a tyrant.

"At no point did we harass him," said Armand. "At no point did we set up any restrictions."

Armand said the leak is not fixable and he needs a new system. The design is up to the Indiana Board of Health. The county health department just enforces it because raw sewage is dangerous.

"If the mosquitos are hovering around that and they bite you, they can transmit several diseases," said Armand.

Williams said he has dropped about $15,000 on extra pumping and an engineer evaluation over the last 15 months.

"I think (Armand) uses the rules to make it harder on people," said Williams.

Williams said he has lost his will to fight and is closing shop Saturday with a big BBQ in the afternoon. He will start selling supplies next week and will turn the building over to the bank.

Tornado victims have also claimed they are having problems with the Health Department regarding land where tornados ripped apart their homes. Armand said it's just a few properties, but is meeting with anyone who has questions at Health Department Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

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