Collins Tower falling debris causes lane closures

Jennifer Bailey|Commercial-NewsOrange cones block traffic Monday in the westbound lanes of East Main Street after debris fell from the nearby Collins Tower. City officials have an engineer looking at the situation.

DANVILLE— Debris falling during the weekend from the Collins Tower, formerly known as Bresee Tower, caused lane closures on Main Street and also broke windows on the tower and damaged scaffolding.

A police squad car blocked the roadway where debris could be seen on the street Sunday afternoon until barricades could be erected near the building at 4 N. Vermilion St.

Owner Jeri Collins, who owns the building with her husband Chris, wouldn’t give an update on the building.

“At this time I will not be providing interviews. I will provide the public with facts when I feel the time is right. Any new information may be found on our Facebook page,” she stated through email.

There has not been any information on the Collins Tower Facebook page since April.

“We have a structural engineer on site and representatives assessing the situation,” Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said Monday afternoon.

He said for now at least the two westbound lanes of Main Street adjacent to the building are closed from Vermilion Street to city hall. Depending on what the structural engineer says, “we hope to possibly reopen one. We’re not certain,” Williams said.

The structural engineer was brought in by Danville Public Works Director Carl Carpenter and Assistant City Engineer Eric Childers.

Williams said he spoke Monday morning with Jeri and Chris Collins and they told him they have a new partner, Travis Patton, who specializes in redoing multi-story buildings.

Before the additional debris fell, Williams said the Collinses had until the end of July to fulfill their promises regarding the building or the city would proceed in court.

“I asked them to secure the building to ensure the safety of the public …,” he said.

Williams said he met with the Collinses in November 2018 and they “promised to get the cornice removed.”

“They knew it was a problem and still hadn’t gotten it removed,” Williams said, adding that safety netting also wasn’t put up.

“My goal is always to keep people safe,” he added.

He said “Thank God” no one was injured with the falling debris.

It was June 2018 when the Collinses took over ownership of the building from Historic Restorations, Inc. and Land Company of Danville.

Historic Restorations, Inc. is a non-profit organization of Fayette, Ala.

In October 2017, the company was given the building from Forcht Group of Kentucky, which formerly was named First Corbin Financial Corp. Bresee was placed under ownership of the Forcht subsidiary, Land Company of Danville.

The city filed a lawsuit against Land Company of Danville when city officials heard it transferred the building and would no longer be willing to work with the city to solve the imminent danger of failing debris from the building’s exterior. In the lawsuit, the city asked for the building to be demolished within 30 days or restored within 60 days or the building be turned over to the city.

Then Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said about the Collinses in June 2018, “Our message to the new owner first and foremost is steps need to be taken to secure the exterior of the building to make sure the public is not at risk of falling debris. Once that step has been taken we look forward to working with them.”

According to a previous city code violation report to Land Company of Danville, “This building has been deemed an unsafe structure. Minimum corrective action required: to protect the health and welfare of the public, submit for approval a debris collection system that will prevent facade debris from falling onto the public right of way on or before Aug. 10, 2017 to the Urban Services Director per the attached letter. Install the approved debris collection system within seven days of city approval. Submit a facade removal or repair plan for approval to the Urban Services Director per the attached letter on or before Sept. 15, 2017. Complete approved facade removal or repair plan within six months of city approval. Because the damaged areas are accessible to and threaten the health and safety of the public, and the cost of repairs likely exceeds the value of the building, demolition of the structure is recommended.”