Old eyesore motel expected to be burnt down during firefighter training

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The old Shenandoah Motel, South 350W and U.S. 40 will be used for training this summer and then burnt down if state permits are approved.

HANCOCK COUNTY — Back when U.S. 40 was the main road used by people traveling to and from Indianapolis, there were several motels lining the roadway for people to stop and stay. Now many of the older motels are abandoned and have turned into ugly eyesores.

The old Shenandoah Motel, located near South 350W and U.S. 40, is one of those structures most would prefer to see no longer standing.

Longtime county resident Chuck McCleery lives near the old motel and went outside one day last week to see several Sugar Creek Township Fire Department trucks and crew members at the old motel. He was pleased when they told him there are plans to destroy the structure.

“We’ve been to the county to complain about that old motel, but as long as the owner continued to pay the taxes, it was going to be there,” McCleery said. “That area got kind of blighted because of that motel.”

McCleery has lived in the area for over 40 years and said the motel took a turn for the worse when it started being used as rental apartments.

“It’s always been kind of a dead area there really,” McCleery said.

The former owner of the land and structure sold the property to Michael Jacobs who contacted officials with SCTFD and asked firefighters if they’d like to use the old motel for a training ground and eventually burn it down.

The department is in the process of using the old motel to work on firefighting skills, including what McCleery saw, firefighters climbing onto the roof, breaking holes into the structure as part of ventilation training.

“We’re going to be out there plenty in the next few months,” SCTFD chief Brandon Kleine said. “I’m glad to see that it is coming down because it started looking bad about 20 years ago and we get to be part of changing that.”

In order to train at the old motel fire department, officials had to clean out asbestos and get proper permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to train and eventually destroy the motel, which has numerous units.

Battalion Chief Andy Neumeister is spearheading the training project for SCTFD and noted it’s always great when firefighters get the chance to do so on an unfamiliar structure.

“We’ll spend the the next month setting it up for live burn training with the hope in August we’ll completely burn it down as long as we can get the proper permits from the state,” Neumeister said. “The guy (Jacobs) who owns the place was planning to demo it, but reached out to see if we wanted to train in it and of course we said ‘yes.’”

Neumeister noted while crews from their department train all the time, working on real structures is just more realistic.

“It gives us more hands-on opportunities,” Neumeister said. “We’ll do the ventilation work, live fire and search training and Buck Creek Township (Fire Department) will work with us on some of that.”

County Commissioner President Bill Spalding noted if there had been any issues with the old motel, concerning complaints, those might have come before he was part of county leadership. However, he was glad to hear officials with SCTFD are going to use the building for a training grounds area and then burn it down.

“It’s a shame those old motels like this have gone by the way side, but the interstate system created that and now those types of motels are just a day stop or rentals,” Spalding said.