City To Take Ownership Of Arnolt Property

The former Arnolt Corp. property (pictured) on East Durbin Street will be deeded over to the city of Warsaw. The Board of Public Works and Safety on Friday approved for the city to take ownership of it. Photo by David Slone

The former Arnolt Corp. property on East Durbin Street will be deeded over to the city of Warsaw.

City attorney Scott Reust told the Warsaw Board of Public Works and Safety Friday that “the Arnolt property is in receivership and in 2015, the city of Warsaw implemented its unsafe building code against the Arnolt Corp. for all the problems they have over there with the building.”

The receivership is winding down, and in settlement with the city’s enforcement of the unsafe building code, “We have an agreement in place with Kosciusko County receivership and Arnolt Corp. that that property will be deeded over to the city of Warsaw in exchange for the city of Warsaw not pursuing the Arnold Corp. for demolition at this time,” he said.

The settlement agreement also calls that the city is not liable to any third party or future party or any environmental problems that could be caused by that, Reust said. He told the board it just needed to approve for the city to acquire the Arnolt property.

City Planner Jeremy Skinner said, “And, obviously, from our standpoint, it’s a clean-up project. We’ll have to look into what opportunities we have coming up to clean up that property from a demolition standpoint and also from an environmental standpoint for any grants in the future.”

He said it was included Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) grant that was submitted for federal funding. MACOG received that federal grant, and the Arnolt property is on that list.

“We’ll work with MACOG and maybe we can get some funding to do some assessment on it to see what we need to do in the future to put it back on the tax rolls,” Skinner said.

“At the same time, we will be pursuing – and we haven’t ran this across the Redevelopment Commission yet – but we’ll be pursuing possibly pursuing that Gatke TIF district to take in the Arnolt property. Then we’ll be able to use maybe some redevelopment opportunities in the future,” he said.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said, “With the spill that we had earlier this year, EPA came down and took care of all the emergent environmental concerns. Certainly, encouraged us to continue to go toward (brownfield) grant funding to get that building torn down. It’s certainly my understanding that a municipality would have a much better chance of getting funds to clean the thing up and getting it torn down.”

He said it probably wouldn’t be in someone’s interest to try and purchase the property privately “and then have to go in and face all of that. It’s probably similar to the Gatke property.”

Skinner said the city has dealt with private developers in the past. “No matter how you look at it, we’re going to play a part in the clean-up of it. Whether it’s a private developer, they still need a public entity to go after brownfield funding from the state or EPA. So any conversation we have, the redevelopment is probably going to involve us and possible grant funding for brownfield cleanup, whether it’s at state level or EPA level or federal level. No matter how that property gets redeveloped, we’re going to be a part of that from one way or another,” he said.

Skinner said from the city’s standpoint, to achieve a faster possibility of redeveloping the Arnolt property, “It made sense for us to take ownership and look at grant opportunities.”

He said the Gatke property was a similar situation – the city received brownfield grants to clean it up so it could be reused. A developer for the Gatke property hasn’t been found yet, but from a site standpoint it’s been cleaned up and is ready for reuse.

“We’ll be taking the same approach with the Arnold property,” Skinner said.

Thallemer said, “Typically in the end, the city kind of gets stuck with the property, whether it’s dilapidated or going through receivership or it’s got permanent issues. Cities tend to inherit – those blight situations are common in cities all over the country. We just got potentially some redevelopment opportunities up there in area that we really looked strong and hard at during the Stellar application.”

The properties in the area are a “key part” to kick-starting some redevelopment in that area, he said.

George Clemens, Board of Works member, said the Arnolt property “is an embarrassing eyesore and if we want stuff like the service station that went in there – that’s such a nice, clean addition – if we want people to do that, we have to be involved in that cleanup effort.”

Skinner said the city has “slowly been taking steps toward this on the last six months.” He said they will continue to pursue receiving an assessment grant from MACOG and try to reposition the Arnolt property for redevelopment.

Thallemer added that the city has been very involved in trying to keep the building secure. The Warsaw Police Department and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory have “worked hard” to keep people out. Thallemer asked that the public understand that the buildings are not safe but have been secured and will continue to be monitored. If someone does get into the building, he said action will be taken.

The Board of Works unanimously approved for the city to take ownership of the property.