Demolish or sell: Council could decide fate of historic Georgetown bank

The historic bank building in Georgetown, Indiana.
The historic bank building in Georgetown, Indiana.
Jim Reynolds
Jim Reynolds
Kathy Haller
Kathy Haller
Greg Sekula
Greg Sekula

GEORGETOWN, IN (WAVE) - It has sat empty for the past six years, but plans to knock down an old bank are now stirring up concern in Floyd County's Georgetown, Indiana.

After more than 100 years, the fate of the historic Georgetown building could soon be decided.

"It was built in 1909. The town moved into it in the late 1900s [and] used it as a town hall," said Jim Reynolds, Georgetown Public Works Director. "We moved out of the building in 2008."

Since then, Reynolds said the building has sat empty and gone unused after being determined unsafe.

"At that time, we went through an inspection through INSafe," said Reynolds. "We had 22 safety violations in the building."

As a result, town officials moved out and rented meeting space before purchasing a building in 2013 directly across the street from the former bank. Yet, after years of sitting vacant, city leaders are now considering two options for the vacant property: set a price tag or tear it down.

"It takes three votes," began Kathy Haller, a Georgetown councilwoman, "and there's five of us."

Wearing two hats, Haller also serves as president of Main Street, a local group dedicated to preserving the beauty of downtown Georgetown.

"I really, truly don't want it torn down," said Haller, who turned her preservation passion into a petition. Haller's petition has garnered local and international support thanks to the help of a former resident now overseas.

"He lives in the Philippines," began Haller, "so he went around and he got the petition on the internet."

That viral petition has gained support from other preservationalists like Greg Sekula, Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Director.

"Our thought is that the town has a variety of options," said Sekula.

Although deteriorating, Sekula said the building is still structurally sound. Instead of knocking it down, he recommended selling or leasing it.

"Offer the lease at a below market rate in exchange for the lessee actually making repairs to the building," said Sekula.

Reynolds, however, maintained the cost to restore the facility far outnumbered demolition expenses.

"We had an engineering inspection and a feasibility study done on it back in 2008," said Reynolds. "At that time to renovate the building for usage it would require anywhere from $250,000 to $380,000 just to make it suitable for office space."

Reynolds said demolition estimates ranged from $20,000 to $80,000.

The final decision and fate of the former bank, however, remains in the hands of the Georgetown council. They will meet at 6:30 p.m. Doors are open to the public.

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