The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Education

June 11, 2014

Pendleton school demolition resumes

Local activist had sought to save historic building

PENDLETON — After a brief delay caused by ongoing legal objections from a citizen activist, demolition of the historic high school here has resumed.

"I can tell you that the work has begun on the exterior this morning and we're proceeding," with only a week's delay, Ken McCarty, business manager for South Madison Community Schools, said Tuesday.

"We're certainly optimistic it (demolition) will be complete before students get back to campus."

South Madison school board member Joel Sandefur, who was at the building site with McCarty, said he was amazed at how deteriorated the structure was.

"It needed to come down," Sandefur said.

Clearance to resume work came late last week after the Indiana Court of Appeals issued a ruling that lifted a temporary stay on the work, said Jack Hittle, South Madison's attorney.

A three-judge Court of Appeals panel approved a temporary stay while it reviewed the matter but denied the expedited hearing request and lifted the stay while the case was on appeal.

In early February, the South Madison Board of Trustees approved a bid from Renascent Inc. to tear down the old school at a cost of $118,000. Workers gutted it over the winter with plans to finish the job after school ended June 2.

What school officials didn't know at the time was that citizen activist Helen Reske had appealed Madison County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Newman Jr.'s approval of a "certificate of appropriateness" that the Pendleton Historical Preservation Commission granted to tear down the school, which was built in 1936.

Hittle said Reske's Indianapolis attorney, Jeffrey Bellamy, never notified school officials of the appeal as required. Reske and Bellamy did not return telephone calls seeking comment about the Court of Appeals decision and resumption of work.

On May 2, however, Bellamy asked Newman for an expedited hearing to "stay" or halt his court order allowing demolition to proceed.

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