COLUMBUS GROVE — At the opening of Monday evening’s regular meeting of the Columbus Grove Village Council, Mayor Ken Wright addressed questions raised at the previous meeting in regards to the Crawford Building, the structure at the corner of Sycamore and High Streets in Columbus Grove.

It was acquired by its current owner, local resident Chris Halker, through an arrangement made with the village roughly one year ago. As he has proceeded with renovations to the building, a number of people within the community have wondered about the progress made.

“I felt the best answer to that was just to invite you here to give an update and let us know where you’re at, and where you’re going.” said Mayor Wright. “I say all that to say, the council is willing to work with you as best we can. Yes, at the same time, because deadlines have past doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong inner conviction that we need to keep moving on. With that being said, you have the floor.”

Mr. Halker first addressed the six-month time-frame written into the agreement. He stated that it was discussed when he signed and that neither side believed the renovations would be completed in such a short time-frame, given the structure’s state of disrepair when he assumed ownership.

This was acknowledged later in the conversation. First, by council member Pete Langhals, who reintroduced the topic by questioning why the six-month language was presented in the first place. And then, by council member Skyler Mayberry who said, “I do remember you saying that, and you got no pushback from anyone here on that.”

Earlier, when first providing his update, Mr. Halker presented two sets of pictures he had brought with him. The first showing what the interior looked like the day he first walked through the building as its owner. The second set of pictures showed the metal roof he installed this year.

“It has been a long, ongoing process,” Mr. Halker said, “I have done eight roll off [dumpsters]. It was eight to ten yards to the scrapyard. And, so far, 12 truck and trailer loads of burnable things. Which, I have about four heaping piles of that in there right now.”

“As of right now, the first floor is basically, everything is open. I’ve torn down walls. The ceiling, I’ve brought down. The only thing left is the lattice boards…Right now, the winter is the best time for me to get up there.”

“But also,” he continued, “Throughout the year, I’ve been up there. I know people have said that I’ve not done much up there, but it’s been the little things that have just added up.”

Above and beyond the effort he’s put into the building, and the associated costs, Mr. Halker also took issue with airing of a rumor that the building might be for sale, and how it was presented in this paper, saying, “People in town are reading, ‘Oh my God, he got this for free. He’s going to sell it.’ That doesn’t make somebody who’s starting a business look really well.”

Regarding this rumor, council member Chad Irwin said, “I actually brought that up at the meeting. I had heard it from two different people. But then, I saw you a couple of days later in Lima, and you cleared that up.”

“But, I wish I would have been asked about it before it was put in the paper,” Mr. Halker responded.

To be clear, Mr. Halker has an interested renter, which seems to be the source of the rumor. And, he again stated that he is not selling. It is also clear that his investment of personal funds into the building has gone well beyond the village’s expenditures in transferring ownership to him. Though that exact dollar amount and the associated value of his time spent working on the building are unknown.

Returning to the topic of the building’s overall progress, Mr. Mayberry, a short while later, said “We realize the project that you have. We also know that this is, sort-of, uncharted territory that the council unanimously went for, this public-private partnership.”

“And, as much as I would want you to do well as Chris Halker, I want you to do well as an example moving forward. That if we ever find ourselves with another building in this town, that we have a positive precedent to lean back on, and say, ‘No, we did this before and it worked.’ Although you might be feeling pressure to get things going from us, we are feeling pressure from members of the community to put pressure on you, or to move it forward.”

Seemingly from the standpoint of a private property owner, Mr. Halker expressed disagreement over the validity of the public scrutiny he has received in regards to his progress on the building. He also agreed to provide another update to council during a regular meeting in March or April of the coming year.