By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY — The New Albany Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center is likely headed to Clark County.
Curt Peters, president of the Friends of the New Albany Fire Museum Board of Directors, confirmed Thursday the organization hasn’t been able to raise the funds needed to purchase the former Coyle Chevrolet building.
The historic Fred Conway fire collection has been on display inside the building at 411 E. Spring St. since the museum opened in 2011. Peters said the Coyle family has been generous, but that the organization must look elsewhere for a location for the museum.
“It’s very understandable that they need to sell the building now, and we will continue, and we will grow and we will evolve,” Peters said.
He would only confirm that the organization has received an initial offer from a property owner in Clark County to house the museum. However, during a Monday meeting, Jeffersonville City Councilman Ed Zastawny said the fire museum could be a potential tenant of the former Bales Used Car building off Spring Street.
Peters said the museum has received support from a number of quarters in New Albany, and that Mayor Jeff Gahan and city officials “have tried to be helpful.”
“But we have not been able to put together the funds for buying the building,” he said.
However, Peters said the organization still strongly believes the museum can be a success.
Next month, Peters said the executive committee of the national organization of the Fire Museum Network will be in Southern Indiana to plan their 2014 convention at the Vintage Fire Museum, wherever it may be located.
“This project is bigger than one town, and bigger than one county,” Peters said.
The museum will soon make an announcement in conjunction with the property owner about the proposal to move the facility to Clark County, Peters continued.
“If the museum is located in another county, as appears likely, we will always have our deep roots here in Floyd County,” he said.
An exact date as to when the museum will close in New Albany hasn’t been determined. The New Albany Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center will remain open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays in the meantime, Peters said.
Reservations for special events at the museum are also still being accepted, he continued.
“Obviously we can’t close down until we have another place to open up immediately,” he said.
Disagreement over zoning
If it is relocated in Jeffersonville, the fire museum could be incorporated into what Mayor Mike Moore’s administration has pegged as an artists’ incubator and cultural district in the city’s downtown.
Along with putting a new tenant in the Bales building, Jeffersonville Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz has proposed a concept that would allow the former Gray & Wells Collision Center off Michigan Avenue to be used as an artists’ incubator.
However, Zastawny said Thursday the administration has not sought zoning changes for the properties, which he believes would be required in order to form the cultural district.
“There’s a controversy in these leases because the mayor hasn’t followed the statutory requirement to go to planning and zoning and to go to the city council to approve a change in plans for the use of that property,” Zastawny said.
A message left for Moore seeking comment Thursday hadn’t been returned as of press time.
Zastawny said he wouldn’t support any project for the properties in question until the council and the Jeffersonville Plan Commission have reviewed and voted on zoning changes for the areas.
“There’s steps to take before valid leases can be signed in that area,” he said.