Shop owner: Corporations should be better neighbors

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Lack of accountability of owners of vacant buildings in the village of Calumet became a real-life issue for Amy Knight, owner of Calumet Floral and Gifts, when the March 7 roof collapse of the Family Dollar building next door created a threat to the structural integrity of her own building.

CALUMET — Amy Knight, owner of Calumet Floral and Gifts on Fifth Street, said there seems to be a lack of accountability for building owners in the village after the roof of the Family Dollar building next door to her establishment collapsed on March 7.

“I would like to see the village of Calumet empowered to take action against delinquent property owners,” said Knight. “The most discouraging part of this event is that it could have been avoided.”

Knight said John Gladney, Family Dollar district manager, had requested a work request for the snow removal several weeks before the building collapsed, but corporate executives refused the request.

“Another concern is that the village, as well as the community, are at the mercy of a large corporation that does not seem to have a responsibility toward, or a concern for, what we as local businesses in Calumet are trying to accomplish,” Knight said. “Local business owners and community members need to work together to rectify this situation.”

What Knight discussed has actually been an issue between the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Village Council for years, and it was raised again last year when DDA Chairwoman Leah Polzien brought the issue to the council.

At the May 2013 regular meeting, Polzien requested the board hire the law firm of Kendricks, Bordeau, Keefe, Seavoy and Larson, referred to as Kendricks, to assist the DDA in enforcing blight and dangerous building ordinances.

She also asked the council to consider passing a resolution informing village property owners that “Calumet is serious about passing its blight ordinances.”

During that discussion, then-Trustee Peggy Germain voiced her concern about several buildings that had been put on a blight list presented to the council members. She asked why the focus was on three ordinances while the other ones have not been enforced or addressed, a concern also voiced by Trustee Virginia Dwyer.

She added that attorney Jim Tercha suggested the council contact an attorney to help assist with ordinances, but nothing to date had been done. Dwyer said her reason for running for a seat on the council was because of the blight issue in the village.

At the October regular meeting, the council discussed that in order to qualify for federal grant awards and money, including the Elm Street project, the Village Council reviewed several ordinances, and passed resolutions on several plans and policies, among them the blight ordinance.