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February 5, 2014

Future of Georgetown’s first bank, historic building, in doubt

1909 structure was former Town Hall

GEORGETOWN — A piece of Georgetown’s history may soon meet its maker.

The Georgetown Town Council is expected to discuss and possibly vote at its Feb. 18 meeting whether to tear down or try to sell the old Georgetown Bank building located at 9110 Ind. 64. The building, owned by the town, once served as Georgetown’s Town Hall.

The town’s first bank was opened in September 1909, and while the building housed a bank for decades, it was used as the Town Hall before closing for good in 2008 due to the structure falling in disrepair.

Now, the future of the town’s first bank, which sits in the heart of the town, is in doubt.

“The building commissioner has inspected the building and feels it is unsafe,” said Jim Reynolds, public works director for the town. “We have been encouraged to take it down before it falls down. It is so close to State Road 64, that if it falls down it will fall down in the road.”

However, Greg Sekula, southern regional director of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, is hoping the building can be saved. He said a few years ago, Indiana Landmarks provided Georgetown with cost figures which included a possible addition so the building could remain a town hall.

“We think it made a lot of sense,” Sekula said.

He also said Indiana Landmarks helped Georgetown obtain a National Register of Historic Places designation recently, and losing a historic structure would be a “blow” to the town.

“I am hoping they re-evaluate the idea and either sell or lease the building,” Sekula said. “It’s one of the last commercial buildings in the town and it would be a real loss to the community.”

Reynolds said the building’s condition might make saving it impossible. He said INSafe, a branch of the Department of Labor, completed an inspection of the building and found close to 25 safety violations in 2008. He said the needed repairs cost too much for the town to consider, and in recent years the structure has been used for storage.

“We are leaning toward demolishing it,” Reynolds said. “The council doesn’t want to sell the property. They don’t want to give up the property. It is worth more than the building itself.”

Reynolds said demolition quotes will be presented to the council to consider at the Feb. 18 meeting.

“If they vote to tear it down, it will be done immediately — probably within 30 days,” Reynolds said.

Sekula said one advantage to receiving a historic designation is it opens the door to tax credits.

“I hope they look at other options for that property,” Sekula said. “I hope the residents of Georgetown will come out in force and encourage the council to steer away from demolition.”

Georgetown Town Council member Kathy Haller said she would like to see the building saved, although she admits she may be the only one on the board who feels that way. She said it doesn’t make sense to spend as much as $70,000 of taxpayers’ money to tear the building down, instead of selling it for a profit.

“There have been a few people who have hinted around about buying it,” she said. “I sure don’t want to see them tear it down. It can be a beautiful building. But I think they are going to have enough votes to tear it down.”

Haller said if the town had maintained the building after moving out in 2008, it wouldn’t have fallen in disrepair.

“I really want to keep it,” she said.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the new Town Hall, which sits across the street from the old building, along Ind. 64 in downtown Georgetown.

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Motion Studio's junior company performs "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in celebration of National Dance Day at the Bicentennial Park in New Albany Saturday. The junior company, ages 7-11, have been working with Motion Studios on the ballet routine for the past four months.

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