FOWLER, Ind. (WLFI) — The collapse of a building in Fowler has sparked conversation of an underlying town issue.
As News 18 reported, neglect in upkeep is ultimately what made it fall on Feb. 24, but many buildings in Fowler are facing this problem.
Leaders said it's like a ripple effect. People buy a building then they start their business and then they leave for a bigger city, neglecting the building they own in Fowler. Then someone buys that building and it starts again.
Jenny Rettig, the owner of Fowler IGA grocery store, said she understands the struggle of upkeeping a business.
“You're trying to keep the lights on," said Rettig. "You're trying to pay your employees. You're trying to do all that and do the upkeep. I understand being a small business in a small town."
Rettig said the neglect of downtown buildings doesn't necessarily reflect the town residents.
“The people that are here and live here, I think they do their very best,” said Rettig.
Fowler Town Council President Linda Brouillette, like Rettig, is frustrated with the business owners who buy buildings then abandon them.
“People have sold their businesses or sold their buildings and move to maybe a larger city,” said Brouillette. “We have buildings that are left in Fowler that may have an owner that doesn't really care for the building.”
This was the case for the collapsed Uptown Bar, which has sat empty for more than 10 years. The town wasn't able to do anything about it because they didn't own it.
“Unfortunately, the town gets blamed for the shape of the buildings, which really, it's not the town's responsibility to maintain those buildings, it's the owners,” said Brouillette.
Brouillette encourages people to bring their small businesses to Fowler.
“We don’t have Walmart," said Brouillette. "We don’t have Target and unfortunately you’d have to drive 25 minutes to get that, but in the same meaning we have a small town that cares about their people, their businesses and their schools. It's just a family-oriented town.”
The town is encouraging small businesses to come to Fowler. They offer incentives and grants to help new businesses.