Merrillville awaits word on Old Mill

The building at 73rd and Madison streets was first used as a distillery. The structure was also home to a mill that ground wheat into flour, a school and several different restaurants.

John J. Watkins, The Times

MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council wants control of the former Old Mill restaurant property and is planning an offer for it.

Town Attorney John Bushemi was directed by the council to contact the person who is acquiring the building and parking area through a Lake County tax sale.

Town Councilman Shawn Pettit said that person, who wasn't named by town officials, has paid $1,000 for the two parcels, and the purchaser has asked county officials for the tax deed. The deed could be issued to the person by Sept. 22, Pettit said.

The council decided on Tuesday to offer $1,100 for the properties at 73rd Avenue and Madison Street. The town's main intent is to demolish the deteriorating and long-vacant structure, which Merrillville officials regularly refer to as an eyesore.

“I'm tired of looking at it,” Pettit said.

If a deal can't be reached for the property, the new owner likely could be cited for unsafe building violations because of the facility's condition, officials said.

Councilman Jeff Minchuk said the status of the Old Mill is typically the first thing constituents inquire about when they talk with him. He said the building needs to be addressed as soon as possible for safety.

Engineering studies completed years ago recommended razing the building which has numerous structural issues and mold inside, town officials said.

The council has had numerous discussions about how to handle the facility. Town officials in 2014 attempted to gain title to the property. Some thought Merrillville acquired it then, but the municipality never took control of the facility because it was involved in tax court at that time.

It later became listed on the county tax sale. Early this year, Pettit suggested the town petition the county to remove the property from the sale and transfer the title to the municipality. The council chose to wait until the sale completed to see what interest the property attracted.

Pettit said the person who bought the Old Mill during the tax sale has not discussed intentions for the site with town staff.

Several councilmen said they believe it's best if the town had control of the property.

“I'm not messing around anymore, guys,” Pettit said to the other council members.

He said it's unknown at this time how much it would cost to demolish the building. If Merrillville strikes a deal and obtains the land, the town would seek bids to tear down the structure.

Town officials haven't decided how the municipality would use the property after it's demolished. It’s located in a flood zone, which could limit what could be developed there.

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