News and Tribune

Floyd County

November 19, 2013

Burned building irks New Albany residents

Fire-damaged apartment should be razed, residents say

NEW ALBANY — Already smoke-stained and fire-ravaged, some New Albany residents who live near an apartment building that burned last month said Tuesday it’s a good time to remove the structure permanently.

“It should never have been an apartment building to begin with,” said Rhonda Ferber, 54, who lives off Oak Street.

The structure in question sits at 601 Silver St. near the Oak Street intersection. On Oct. 30, the New Albany Fire Department responded to a blaze inside the building that gutted a sizable portion of the structure.

Ferber and other residents who live near the property said the apartment building had been a source of trouble for several years, as they alleged illegal drug activity and even prostitution occurred on the site.

“It’s been a source of fear for our neighborhood as long as I can remember,” Ferber said.

Whether the property can again host an apartment building is a zoning matter. New Albany Building Commissioner David Brewer said the structure is secure, and that he’s waiting on the property owner and their insurance company to determine if they’ll attempt to salvage the building.

“We’re on top of it and we’ll continue to stay on top of it,” he said.

Some of the residents who attended Tuesday’s board of works meeting suggested razing the structure and leaving it as a green space.

Barbara Gardner also lives off Oak Street, and said it was interesting that the building burned a few days after it appeared to have been vacated.

Some of the elements and people associated with that building over the years have diminished the quality of the neighborhood, she said.

“The police are out there every other day,” Gardner said.

Officially, the cause of the apartment fire is still undetermined. NAFD Fire Investigator Joe Squier said Tuesday he’s awaiting some test results that were submitted to a state laboratory that may help shed some light on how the blaze started.

He conceded it may be a case where he’ll be unable to determine the cause of the fire.

Squier — who has an extensive background in both law enforcement and fire investigation — said he’s heard rumors that the blaze was the result of arson.

But to date, he has no substantiated evidence to prove the fire was the result of illegal activity. Squier added that arson is also a hard crime to prove.

“There’s avenues that if somebody has information, they can call an anonymous tip line,” he said.

If you have information on a possible arson, you can call the Indiana Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators tip line at 1-800-382-4628.


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