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Main Street will seek grants for Keller clean-up

Main Street will seek grants for Keller clean-up
Main Street will seek grants for Keller clean-up
Main Street Corydon President Bud Bennett looks Monday at a machine that wrapped a steel band around wooden wheels at the now-abandoned Keller Manufacturing Co. plant in Corydon. The Defiance (Ohio) Works machine was patented in 1893. (Photo by Randy West)

Main Street Corydon officials will seek hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants to pay for cleaning up the old Keller furniture manufacturing site in Corydon, which could total $1 million.
Bud Bennett, president of Main Street Corydon, and Sean Hawkins, community development manager for the Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented their plans for the 14.6-acre site to the Corydon Town Council Monday night and asked for help with putting up matching funds and serving as a grant applicant.
Main Street Corydon, with a $300,000 lease agreement with the CVB, took title to the Keller property yesterday.
Main Street Corydon will also take its case to the Chamber of Commerce and its Economic Development Committee, the county commissioners and the county council.
Keller furniture has moved all of its management and wood furniture production facilities to its New Salisbury plant.
Preliminary reports from Hagerty Engineering of Jeffersonville, which has taken core samples, indicate that the clean-up expectations ‘aren’t that bad,’ Hawkins told the town council Monday night.
Asbestos has been found in the three buildings, and ‘significant waste oil staining’ was found during an IDEM inspection in 1999. The site contains more than 235,000 square feet of building space.
Hawkins said the lead lawyer at IDEM told Main Street during a recent conference call that Main Street has taken all the right steps thus far in cleaning the property and preparing it for redevelopment. IDEM chemists will review the preliminary site inspection reports to see if any further work needs to be done. A favorable ‘site status letter’ from IDEM will be the key to whether the clean-up process can begin soon, Hawkins said at a meeting last week.
‘Our No. 1 goal is to make sure the property is clean,’ said Bennett. ‘Prospective investors want to know the site is clean, and they want to see the site status letter.’
‘We’ve never done anything like this before,’ said Hawkins, adding that they plan to consult with First District Commissioner James Goldman, who led the effort to clean up the old Wenning Packing and 3B Barrel site in Central Barren.
Bennett said Dan Cristiani Excavating estimates that removing all the buildings except the all-steel pre-dryer building and the old brick manufacturing building will cost $196,000. Cardinal Industrial Installations estimates it will cost $134,000 to remove the asbestos from the walls of the shipping and receiving building.
Bennett has asked Mark Shireman and his sons, Ben and Jeff, of the James L. Shireman Co. to examine the site and submit a second opinion on clean-up costs and architectural services.
Hawkins said Main Street plans, with assistance from the town, to apply for a Indiana Dept. of Commerce grant and other grants that would help with clean-up costs, particularly petroleum spills. The town council indicated Monday night that it would be glad to cooperate. ‘Sounds like we’re pointed in the right direction,’ said council president Fred Cammack.
Hawkins said there are many other considerations:
The Keller site is prone to flooding when Big Indian Creek comes up. However, this is also an opportunity to create green space in the flood plain for summer family recreation.
The cavernous pre-dryer building has been flooded once. Bennett said preliminary plans call for raising the floor five feet and converting it into a conference center under CVB supervision to accommodate 600 to 700 people in banquet-style seating.
Hawkins said the Corydon Jamboree next door to Keller, which routinely sells out its Saturday night show, wants to expand. (Actually, the Jamboree’s already getting bigger, increasing the size of the stage and adding new dressing rooms.)
An amphitheater for plays, concerts and festivals is a possibility on the Keller site, as is developing the massive, labyrinthine brick manufacturing building into a museum, studios and work space for artists and craftspeople, antique mall, restaurants, office and retail space.
Hawkins said they want to make the site safe as soon as possible. Keller’s liability insurance is good until June 30. Hawkins asked the town to have town marshals patrol the area.
Hawkins and Bennett are looking for citizen volunteers to step up and volunteer to work with the Main Street board on this ambitious project. ‘We want to see something positive happen there, something that will be good for Corydon and Harrison County,’ and get the property back on the tax rolls and help provide local jobs, said Hawkins.
‘We also want the public to provide input on what happens there,’ said Bennett. ‘Then our goal will be to find a developer who can develop this.’
Bennett has talked with other property owners nearby ‘ Cathy Buschemeyer, Dave Monroe, Chuck Owen and John Holsclaw ‘ who all express interest in Main Street’s dreams.
‘A site plan may take into account all these properties,’ said CVB director Jim Epperson.

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