By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key reporter
CHILLICOTHE — Crrrash, rrrratttle and kabooom! On March 9, Red Rock Demolition Company of Hamilton brought their equipment to an apartment building that stood next to the playground of Bishop Hogan Memorial School and pre-school. When it was built, the seven unit-red brick apartment building was a contemporary of the 1913 St. Columban School building, which still stands near Bishop Hogan Memorial School. Red Rock employees systematically began demolishing the apartment building, starting with the north wall.
Father Tom Hermes, pastor of St. Columban Parish, said that originally the building was one of the nicest apartment houses in Chillicothe. Years ago, St. Columban parishioners rented there because the apartments were nice and the rent was affordable, he said.
The years passed and, as with all older buildings, repairs needed to be made. Eventually, the overall condition of the building declined. During the last six years, its deterioration led to cheaper rent. Father Hermes said that as a result, at times, some of the residents dealt drugs through their apartments.
A parent went on the website for addresses of sexual offenders in the area and discovered that a sexual offender listed the apartment building as his residence despite it’s proximity to a school.
The building’s ownership changed hands three times in the last six years, the priest said.
In September 2009, a toxic fire was set behind the building while Bishop Hogan students were on the playground during recess. The fire department was called and put out the fire but garbage, trash, and assorted non-burnable items were left in a pile outside of the building.
This pile became a danger not only to Bishop Hogan students but also to neighborhood children who play on Bishop Hogan grounds. “The police stated that if I went over to try to clean up the mess, I could go to jail because I would be trespassing on private property.” Father Hermes said.
After consultation with the Bishop Hogan School Board, the St. Columban Parish Council and the Parish Finance Committee, it was decided that the parish would purchase the apartment building for the safety of children attending Bishop Hogan School.
“The parish is very concerned about the safety and well being of all the children who attend Bishop Hogan Memorial,” Father Hermes said. “Even though this is a very expensive project for the parish, we support the Catholic Schools value of providing the best safe environment for our children which we possibly can.”
The parish successfully purchased the building in July 2010. The selling price was $110,000 and of that, the previous owner gave a gift of $95,000 to the parish. “This meant the parish purchased the apartment building for $15,000,” Father Hermes said. “We spent about $1,000 towards testing for asbestos and lead paint in the building. Asbestos was discovered and was removed at a cost of $1,800.”
St. Columban Parish then contracted with the Red Rock Demolition Company. As preparations were being made, a telephone junction box was discovered adjacent to the building, and had to be removed before demolition could begin. This was eventually done and demolition began the afternoon of March 9. By March 11, only the walls surrounding the entrance remained standing, looming up from a pile of bricks and boards.
Father Hermes said, “The plan is to haul in dirt and seed the ground. The removal of the apartment building will provide a safer playing environment for the children of the school, the parish, the CCD program and the neighborhood. I think it is important, and necessary, for the parish to be a good neighbor to all those who live around us.”