Mayor and zoning officer discuss upcoming projects

LynAnne Vucovich • Jan 12, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Mayor Dave Light and Mitch Loughton, Norwalk’s zoning officer, sat down to address some concerns with empty buildings in Norwalk and public works projects.

• What are your thoughts about the old fire station? How about PIPO?

“Let’s talk about the PIPO building, 175,000 square feet, it’s two buildings or two parts of a building. The roof on the one part of the building needs a complete replacement. There’s water leaking everywhere and it’s my understanding that it is still full of…” Light said.

“Plastic, there was some kind of binder program there, so there’s a lot of old plastic binders, like lots,” Loughton said.

“(The binders are) stacked clear to the ceiling. PIPO is plastic in, plastic out. So it was their concept to take anything made of plastic and shred it, melt it or do whatever and turn it into guardrail posts. They came up with this idea to replace those blocks of wood with plastic, it would last much longer. That’s what they were manufacturing,” Light said.

“It’s a lot. I don’t know what else is still in there,” Loughton said. “They had a program with Staples or somebody, and they were getting all this plastic stuff to recycle it and ship it out. When they closed, everything was still there so it’s just full of plastic.”

“For lack of a better term, the business just stopped,” Light said.

“Yeah they just kind of stopped, they ceased,” Loughton said.

“(It) went into receivership this past year, which is out of Cincinnati someplace,” Light said.

“They have responsibility in some way because the owners of record went bankrupt I believe. The receivership is kind of a middle man to oversee the property since the actual owners don’t have the means to oversee it. I don’t know the exact details but that was this past year,” Loughton said.

“They came in to close up the building. I mean, physically secure the building within the last six months. That was a safety concern and a community concern because you had people going in there and partying,” Light said.

“It was a mess, no electricity, the fire sprinklers are no longer, the copper wiring has been stripped out of there. It’s just an empty shell of a building full of junk. It’s a huge eyesore. Some of that building could probably still be used, but 175,000 square feet, that’s a huge facility. We need to get it cleaned up and get it sold to make use of the property.”

“The building’s big, but the property itself is a huge piece of property, too. The parking lot and the grassy area behind is all part of the same parcel. It’s a lot of land, too. It’s pretty big,” Loughton said.

“A year or two ago we had a rough estimate of a cleanup would be about a million dollars. The person we had come in said a million dollars a lot, not just money, but manpower, too. It’s a good location, right there on Republic. It’s a truck route and it’s close to 250. It’s a really good location. I think it could be redeveloped, but it’s about the money and the manpower. The legal part is hard, getting permission to do anything. Even if we had permission, the funds to do it, that’s the kicker.”

Light said the old fire station is still in limbo.

“There are no plans yet for it,” he said. “I’m hoping over the wintertime here, and we’re still waiting for the winter to hit, once it hits everything kind of comes to a standstill. I think as spring gets here, we get more active and can get more done with that building. I always thought it was a solid building, but I don’t know what it would take to make it handicap accessible, restrooms, everything, so what do you do?”

“To tear it down completely to make additional parking lot, but it’s a very cool, old building if we had the right person to go in there and turn it into something, that would be neat,” Light added. “I’d like to see the city hang on to the land because it’s connected to city property. It would be neat, if we were going to do something with a long-term lease to the right people, so the city still actually owns it.”

• What are your thoughts about the infrastructure in Norwalk and do you have a wish-list for jobs that need to be done?

“They went over the street repaving list at council and put that out, that’s important. They had some grants come through this last year, from the gasoline tax, that’s going to give us a little boost to get more done infrastructure wise as far as our street repaving,” Light said.

“At the end of the day, when people come into Norwalk, it’s nice for them to come in and I like to see a wow factor, (like) “Wow, look at this little town, look what’s going on.” What can we do to make people want this a destination place? That’s what it’s all about these days and we’ve got a beautiful city and a lot of enticements for people want to come here and raise a family.”

“We’ve got two fantastic school systems. Our Ernsthausen Recreation Center, we’ve got a lot of updates coming there this year. Those are all things that make Norwalk an attractive place to move or to start your business here,” Light added. “We’re on a pretty good, aggressive schedule to get things done this year. We need to do more working with the business bureau, the chamber of commerce, so when people come into town there’s got to be more done when you pull into Norwalk so you don’t just see nothing.”

Loughton added, “And widening Old State, there are two more phases of that and that whole street will be widened.”

“That’s going to be huge because of all of the people who get off the turnpike and come here pulling their race cars. They cut across Old State, a lot of its really nice. All of 18 that, between 18 or Route 20/Route 18 it’s really neat because it’s wider turns. You come to that last little phase and it’s an eyesore and a mess,” Light said.

“That’s the kind of stuff you want to see coming into Norwalk. We’ve got some fun things coming that will attract people to want to come here. We need to concentrate on pulling some of the motor sports people to downtown Norwalk.”

Loughton added, “Even people on their way to Sandusky, if they stop here for a couple of hours and go to one of our restaurants or our stores, that’s good, too.”

Light said he has been working on plans for events that will be released in the spring.

“We’ve got some plans for that stuff,” Light said. “People work wherever they work, and they want something fun to do without driving to Cleveland.”


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