Bloomington BPW affirms order to AT&T: Take gear off Johnson’s Creamery smokestack by May 31

At its Tuesday evening meeting, Bloomington’s board of public works voted to affirm an order from the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, which requires AT&T to remove its communications equipment from near the top of the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack—by midnight on May 31.

The removal of AT&T’s equipment will help set the stage for the owner’s partial demolition of the smokestack—from 140 feet down to 60 feet. The building, with its smokestack, is owned by Peerless Development.

The partial demolition was ordered by HAND because an engineering study determined the smokestack is unsafe.

If AT&T doesn’t comply with the order to vacate, it could face a daily fine of $500 from the city of Bloomington.

Assistant city attorney Daniel Dixon presented the board of public works with the item, which was the first order of business on Tuesday’s meeting agenda. ​​The smokestack can’t be reduced in height by the owner Peerless Development, until AT&T removes its equipment from the stack, Dixon said.

Dixon said that based on back-and-forth with Peerless, the owner would have been able to begin demolition work as early as June, if AT&T’s communications equipment were not there. That’s the reason HAND’s order was issued for the end of May—so that AT&T’s equipment won’t slow the progress on partial demolition of the smokestack.

Responding to a question from the board, Dixon said the latest information he had from AT&T was that they’re still in discussion about the removal of their equipment, but still don’t have a date fixed. But AT&T’s timeframe is now in the neighborhood of June or July, Dixon said—after AT&T previously indicated it could be anytime between June and September.

Dixon said AT&T had not given a detailed explanation of the reasons why the equipment can’t be removed sooner.

Dixon told the board that their affirmation of the order to vacate would allow the city to impose fines against AT&T, if the company is “not engaging in the process or unreasonably delaying the owner from being able to reduce the smokestack to a safe height.”

Dixon pointed The B Square to the relevant state statute for imposing a fine for failure to comply with an unsafe building order (emphasis in bold). [IC 36-7-9-28]

IC 36-7-9-28 Violations; penalties
Sec. 28. A person who:
(1) remains in, uses, or enters a building in violation of an order made under this chapter;
(2) knowingly interferes with or delays the carrying out of an order made under this chapter;
(3) knowingly obstructs, damages, or interferes with persons engaged or property used in performing any work or duty under this chapter; or
(4) fails to comply with section 27 of this chapter;
commits a Class C infraction.
Each day that the violation continues constitutes a separate offense.

A Class C infraction can be as much as $500, according to Dixon.

The AT&T communications equipment has surfaced previously in connection with the process that the historic district commission and the city council pursued in March and April in order to establish a historic district for the Johnson’s Creamery building.

As part of a potential argument for removing a historic designation for the building, Peerless  has cited the lost revenue from the lease agreement with AT&T, that is a consequence of the smokestack’s unsafe condition. Peerless pegged the amount of lost revenue from the AT&T lease at around $24,500 a year.

Related B Square report: Johnson’s smokestack: Owner’s alley request seen as chance to “leverage” historic tribute