JEFFERSONVILLE — Crews were on scene for more than 12 hours Sunday battling a fire in a building at Spring Street and Court Avenue that has displaced nearly a dozen tenants including the Clark County Family Recovery Court.
“It’s a devastating loss because one of the things that I thought was wonderful is that our participants kind of looked at those offices like a home in a way,” said Clark County Magistrate Joni Grayson, who has four other staff members. “They were very welcoming and comfortable so we would have participants and their children come in there a lot.
“We loved being there so this is hard.”
The specialty court’s aim is to help strengthen and reunite families affected by addiction who also have a case with the Department of Child services. Although court itself is held several blocks away at the county courthouse, the building was used for staff office space and a safe, comfortable area to do case management with families.
Grayson said the case management area was separated because staff learned early in the program that having to go into a courthouse could add unnecessary stress on families struggling to improve.
“It’s stressful for anybody but if you’re dealing with a family case and trying to put a family back together, its extra stressful,” she said.
All the case files can be restored easily because they were digitally stored, but computers and other equipment, and gift cards they gave to participants for incentives are lost.
“What you can’t recover, of course, are the case managers had pictures on the wall drawn by the kids and cards and things like that that they’d gotten from participants and just little things that were very sentimental,” she said. “That stuff is huge. As far as family recovery court is concerned, we lost our house.”
Grayson said the staff will be able to use resources at the county courthouse to continue the work without a pause, and are looking into replacement equipment. She added that they’re already set up to do things outside of that office space due to COVID-19.
“If there’s any good thing about COVID it’s the fact that we’ve been doing pretty much everything via Zoom, staff and case managers [have] been meeting our participants outside to do drug screening and things like that,” she said.
“We’ve had trials and tribulations to keep things going just because of COVID so I think we’re pretty well equipped to deal with whatever gets thrown at us these days. We’re not planning on missing a beat.”
Bob McAuliffe, who has owned and managed the property since 1983, was at the site Monday morning with the investigators and talked about the impact of the loss of the building not just to his family but also to the tenants. Eleven of the 12 office spaces are leased by businesses or community organizations.
“We’re devastated as a family and we’re sorry for the losses to all the tenants, the tenants were just like family to us,” he said, adding that he’s working with a local real estate agent to help find new spaces for the tenants. “They’ve lost their contents, their livelihoods.”
McAuliffe said he’d always appreciated the great location in the heart of downtown Jeffersonville and had kept the building well-maintained.
“It’s an emotional loss from a business standpoint, from a building standpoint, and then really what becomes of this corner later?” he asked. “This has always been a good corner in Jeffersonville.”
The cause and origin of the fire have not been determined.
The first call came in at 2:31 p.m., and firefighters were on scene within three minutes, division chief Mike McCutcheon said. The initial response included 30 firefighters, who saw flames and heavy smoke coming out of the front left corner when they arrived.
It took them more than four hours to contain the fire. Crews stayed on scene until at least 3 a.m. addressing any hot spots. There were no injuries reported.
McCutcheon said that the fire was challenging because of the age and construction of the building. Sprinkler systems weren’t required at the time the building was constructed and there were open spaces where the fire was able to spread more quickly.
“It created some difficulties for us,” McCutcheon said Monday morning as investigators assessed the damage.