A property at 119 W. Main St. in Hillsboro, where a building partially collapsed nearly a year ago, went up for auction Wednesday and was purchased by the city of Hillsboro, according to Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott.
Abbott said the city will take possession of the property for the cost that was paid to demolish and remove the building.
She said plans for the space are still in the very early stages, but the city hopes to use the space for economic development.
However, Steve Fettro, who owned the building with his parents at the time of its collapse, told The Times-Gazette that he and his parents are still dealing with the legal repercussions of the building’s collapse.
In the fall of 2019, Fettro said he discovered the space cleaned up as he was told. When Fettro dug test holes, instead of the approximately nine inches of gravel atop clean fill he expected find, he a hole left where they had been a basement beneath the structure had been filled with a few inches of gravel atop sand containing vegetation, wood and fragments of asphalt.
On Feb. 19, Evans Landscaping, Inc., the Cincinnati-based site development company that handled the demolition and cleanup for the 100 block of West Main Street, filed a civil case against the Fettros for what the company said was a “complaint for breach of contract and unjust enrichment,” according to Highland County Court of Common Pleas online records.
“Evans tried to sue us, saying they did do everything right when the pictures show they did not,” Fettro said. “Their attorney even contacted me and said, ‘He even has receipts,’ and that’s when I told her, ‘Ma’am, he’s told me he has receipts, but as far as I know, test holes can’t lie.”
Abbott acknowledged that she was not Hillsboro’s safety and service director at the time of the building’s collapse and subsequent demolition, but said she as far as she’s aware, the space was filled in according to the contract.
“There’s supposed to have been 200 tons put in there, and it absolutely is not there. In order to put 200 tons in that area, the gravel would be 8 to 10 inches deep. It averages 2 to 3 inches,” Fettro said. “Now, paving contractors won’t touch it.”
Paving contractors, Fettro said, have told him that in order to pave over the space, someone will have to dig the dirt, sand and gravel out and completely redo the work.
Meanwhile, Fettro said their insurance company has denied their claim, and they have yet to receive any insurance money to help cover the cost of the demolition and cleanup.
Fettro said the insurance company accused him and his parents of neglecting the building, which the insurance company says was a factor in the building’s collapse in June 2019.
“We knew something was wrong. We had contractors in there doing all kinds of stuff, but nobody could figure out what was wrong with the building,” Fettro said. “They’re saying we knew something was wrong, but we didn’t take care of it. If you don’t know what’s wrong, how do you address it? We had to figure out what was wrong before we put people in harm’s way.”
Leading up to the collapse, Fettro said he and some contractors noticed cracks were appearing in the walls and worsening, though they were unable to determine the cause before the collapse.
In July 2019, after the building collapsed, Fettro hired an engineer from Indiana named Robert J. Hrezo, who completed a structural investigation of the building. Hrezo determined that the building’s collapse was related to the removal of support columns originally located at the front of the building.
“We didn’t figure out why the building even fell until we hired the engineer out of Indiana,” Fettro said. “He figured out there was a company that came in and removed two of the big supporting columns. He said, back a hundred years ago, the same company did the same thing in the town he’s from, and it had already collapsed.”
Fettro said that based on historical photographs from the last 100 years, there could be other buildings in uptown Hillsboro that had support columns removed.
The Fettros are suing the insurance company, but as of press time they’re still waiting for details on the case.
“We had to sue the insurance company to try to get anything back at all,” Fettro said. “You name it — it’s gone wrong.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.