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Ind. 5 to remain closed as building threatens collapse

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

VAN BUREN -- A building that town officials say is on the verge of collapse will continue to keep Ind. 5 closed for the next several weeks while the town seeks an emergency demolition order for the building, located at 102 E. Main St., Van Buren. 

The historic building that was once an opera house suffered a major roof collapse last Monday, leading to concern that the rest of the building could fall onto the state highway it sits alongside.

Local law enforcement have closed the state highway in the area.

The official detour for through traffic is, for traffic headed north, taking Ind. 18 west to I-69 and exiting I-69 at Ind. 218 to return to Ind. 5.

The town is working to get the building down as soon as possible.

The building's owner, Christopher Lamb, has told Van Buren officials he doesn't have the money to pay for demolition, according to Town Council President Tony Manry.

Manry said Lamb will transfer ownership of the building to the Town of Van Buren so that the town can proceed with tearing it down.

The town is in the process of collecting bids from contractors for the demolition and is still working to obtain an emergency demolition order.

“We hope to get this done quick,” Manry said.

The Ind. 5 emergency closure is a fairly unusual one for Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials, said Nichole Hacha-Thomas, director of media relations for INDOT's Northeast Indiana district.

Typically, emergency closures of state highways last a few hours at most while an accident or house fire is cleared, Hacha-Thomas said. But this emergency could continue for weeks or longer.

Hacha-Thomas said while INDOT's goal is to reopen Ind. 5 as soon as possible, safety comes first.

“It all comes down to the safety of the public,” Hacha-Thomas said.