SILVER LAKE — A hearing was held Wednesday, May 16, at the Silver Lake Town Hall regarding an “order to demolish” the former Silver Lake Elementary School building.
Silver Lake Code Enforcement Officer Tom Earhart acted as the hearing officer. “Any final decision that is made may be appealed,” said Earhart. “Any appeal would go to the Kosciusko Circuit Court and would need to be filed within 10 days of the day I make that decision.”
“The case we have today is based upon the order to demolish and remove an unsafe building, that being the school building located in Silver Lake,” Earhart stated. “I’ve had a chance to review the petition. Now I’m ready to hear evidence on whether or not that petition should be granted.”
The school was closed down approximately 10 years ago when Warsaw Community Schools voted to close Silver Lake, Claypool and Atwood schools. At that time, Mike Baur expressed interest in purchasing and renovating the building, which had already been slated for demolition.
Silver Lake Town Council President Chad Miner stated that Baur told council members he planned to put a charter school in the building. Silver Lake Partners LLC eventually became the listed owners of the property, with Baur being one of the members.
Miner stated the building has become increasingly unsafe and dilapidated and reported numerous safety issues with the property.
“At this point in time the building is basically just sitting there abandoned,” said Miner, adding that council members have concerns regarding the safety of the building, especially in that the building is located beside Rambler Park.
Attorney Scott Reust represented the Silver Lake town council, with Attorney Bruce Munson representing the defense.
Reust began by saying, “Silver Lake Partners LLC was created as a domestic limited liability company, according to the secretary of the state of Indiana, on Oct. 15, 2008. Mike Baur was the registered agent of Silver Lake Partners LLC and he’s the one we’ve dealt with.”
“Silver Lake Partners LLC was administratively dissolved in 2014 so there’s some confusion as to who may be appearing for Silver Lake Partners,” Reust continued, “I’m assuming Mr. Munson and Mr. Baur are appearing on behalf of the administratively dissolved corporation.”
Munson said, “The LLC has been reinstated as of February of this year,” to which Reust immediately responded, “That’s not true.”
Reust pointed out that the LLC had not actually been reinstated but instead a newly formed Silver Lake Partners LLC organization was created. Munson conceded this point.
“But we’re here on behalf of Silver Lake Partners,” said Munson, with Reust quickly asking, “Which one?”
“Pick one,” Munson responded.
Those who testified in favor of the petition included Miner, Silver Lake Town Marshal Jason McGlennen, Silver Lake Council Member Phil Shalley, Silver Lake Clerk-Treasurer Tonya Conley and Silver Lake Building Commissioner Danny French.
It was reported that Calvin Bolt of Calvin Bolt Inspections & Testing performed an inspection of the building approximately a year and a half ago. French read excerpts from Bolt’s inspection report, which included “Multiple broken windows, dead birds inside, extensive mold, window air conditioners that are very unsafe and need to be removed or repaired, rotted out roof sheeting.” French reported termite and water damage to the building as well.
McGlennen stated that Silver Lake Partners LLC has been cited for over 365 ordinance violations. He presented photos of the interior of the building, which were admitted as evidence.
Testifying for the defense were Baur, James Malcolm, a licensed architect and real estate broker, Dan Chamberlin, who stated he has a background in construction, and Paul Hayden, director of Northeast Indiana Landmarks.
Reust questioned Baur as to who the other members of Silver Lake Partners LLC are, with Baur refusing to answer, stating that the other members wish to remain private.
When Earhart directed Baur to answer the question, Baur said, “Recently I put my wife as one of the partners.”
“So you and your wife are the only members of the LLC?” Reust clarified.
“Yes,” Baur confirmed.
“I think you’ll find that yesterday Mike had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” said Malcolm. “He’s got to find people or businesses to occupy that building. Some ideas that were tossed around quickly were a laundromat, a daycare or a coffee shop.” Malcolm stated that the building could be used for storage in its current condition.
When Reust asked Malcolm if he had seen any evidence that Baur was taking measures to maintain the temperature of the building in order to control moisture, Malcolm replied, “Yes, I did see that he did one major thing – he opened the windows to let the air flow through.”
“Well, the windows are broken, the air already flows through,” Reust immediately fired back.
Baur said that in his defense, some of the windows were broken due to kids throwing rocks through the windows.
Hayden stated that under certain criteria the school is a historical building.
“We would consider being involved in its rehab only as the sole owner,” said Hayden. “We would consider, and I emphasize ‘consider,’ accepting it only as a donation.”
Baur said he collected a petition of approximately 100 signatures from people who do not want to see the building demolished. He stated that around 50 people attended a rally at the school building Tuesday evening.
“If I felt endangered, I wouldn’t be in that building. If those 50 people felt they were endangered in that building, they wouldn’t have been in it last night,” said Baur.
“Did you share with your guests that Calvin Bolt prepared a report in 2017, that was provided to you, and that in his report he said the building is not safe or habitable inside due to the extensive mold?”
“No,” replied Baur. “There’s a lot of things I didn’t share with them.”
“So when you say they must have felt safe, they didn’t know everything that you know,” said Reust.
Reust asked if Baur has had any mold remediation done in the building, to which Baur responded that mold experts have been in the building.
When Reust inquired whether Baur has a certified mold remediation report showing that mold remediation has been performed in the building, Baur said, “There’s mold in this room and it has not been remediated. There’s millions of kinds of mold.”
“It seems to me that it’s the city’s responsibility to show it’s a danger, it’s not my responsibility,” said Baur.
“Really?” Reust questioned. “It’s the town of Silver Lake’s responsibility to make sure the owners of the building have a safe building? That’s your testimony?”
“Well, the town of Silver Lake are the ones who want to demolish the building,” Baur responded.
After closing arguments, Earhart stated he would take the matter under advisement and will notify counsel when he has a decision.