Oliphant Wall

Sun-Commercial file photo | The city awarded a $47,000 contract to Schlomer Enterprises, 2670 S. Henderson Road, to repair the west wall of the Oliphant Building downtown, which was damaged in 2011 during the Gimbel-Bond fire. But officials have grown weary of the lack of progress on the project

City officials are frustrated by the stalled repair of a brick wall downtown.

Mayor Joe Yochum on Monday told city council members that he's keeping a close eye on progress — or lack thereof — on the repair of the brick wall adjacent to the Gimbel Corner at Second and Main streets.

It's been more than a year — a far cry from the 60 days it was supposed to take — since city officials signed a contract with Jim Schlomer, owner of Schomer Enterprises, 2670 S. Henderson Road, to repair the side of the Oliphant Building at 214 Main St., which was left damaged in a December 2011 blaze that destroyed the Gimbel Bond building next door.

The project initially hit a snag when Schlomer found that a limestone cornerstone had to be replaced. Work was stalled yet again when Schlomer suffered an injury.

But that was months ago, and there's been no progress made on the much-anticipated restoration.

Yochum said he's spoken briefly with Schlomer in recent weeks and that he's run into a personal problem, one that has kept him from finishing the job.

Yochum said he wanted to make every effort to work with Schlomer, but his patience is running out.

He's directed city engineer John Sprague to ask Schlomer to get back to work this week, or the city will find someone else to finish the job.

The unsightly wall has been a sore spot for city officials for nearly a decade.

They were left with the mess after the former Gimbel Bond building's owner cut his losses and left town after the fire. Eventually, the city partnered with Good Samaritan Hospital and Vincennes University to pay to clear away the debris.

But the scarred wall, which technically isn't part of the Oliphant Building at all but a remaining piece of the Gimbel Bond building, remained.

City officials in 2016 explored several methods to clean up the downtown eyesore. In early 2017, they awarded an $82,000 contract to Schrock and Sons of Elnora, but they abandoned it after a year had passed with no actual work being done.

In April of 2018, they went with a lesser contract of $47,000 with Schlomer.

And still, they wait.

In other business, city officials made a change to the way they spend a portion of the Economic Development Income Tax dollars.

In keeping with a new mandate from the Indiana Department of Transportation, members voted to transfer some money — about $100,000 — from its share of EDIT dollars into its Motor Vehicle Highway Fund, a gasoline tax-generated fund from which the city draws more than a half-million dollars each year.

INDOT is now requiring that all MVH funds be spent only on road repair, which is forcing city officials to make a rather large change.

Currently, the gas-tax revenue — about $600,000 per year — is spent to fund the city's Street Department, everything from new equipment to payroll, etc.

The city has for years paid for road maintenance and repaving — more specifically for matches to state grant awards —with EDIT dollars, so now, the mayor said, they will just switch the two.

“We'll pay for roads using (the Motor Vehicle Fund),” he said, “and we'll pay for the street department using EDIT dollars.”

“We're really just getting our line items in order,” he said.

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