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JP Morgan Chase official: Castle was not neglected

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

An official with JP Morgan Chase Bank took issue Wednesday with “the characterization” in this newspaper that the former Castle Theatre in downtown New Castle had been neglected by those in charge of managing the Nellie Bundy Bailey Trust.

Terrye Wheatley, vice president of JP Morgan JPM Chase Bank NA, spoke with the Courier-Times about the recent mold issue at the building on 221 S. Main St. and other matters regarding the historic theatre, which closed last year after nearly 90 years in business.

“We take issue with the characterization that the property has been neglected,” Wheatley said in a phone interview Wednesday from her Denver, Colo. office. 

Wheatley said a local vendor had been engaged to winterize the building but that vendor failed to do its job properly. She declined to name the vendor.

Wheatley said that there had been a lot of activity “behind the scenes” to remediate that water damage, which occurred in February. She blamed the damage on a water main break.

New Castle Water Supt. Greg Phipps told the Courier-Times in February that between 90,000 and 100,000 gallons of water had to be pumped out of the building. Mayor Greg York said in the same February story the water was left on along with the electricity in the building, but the heat had been turned off. When temperatures rose, York said the frozen pipes just burst.

Water damage from that incident set the stage for mold to grow inside the building, which led city and county officials to post warning signs on doors of the facility July 30.

Wheatley said efforts to remove the mold and clean the building up will intensify starting Friday.

“It will be fully remediated,” she said.

In the meantime, the building and one adjacent to it in the same block of South Main Street are for sale, Wheatley said. Both buildings are listed for $165,000 as a package offer. Wheatley added that if someone was interested in just one of the buildings, that could be subject to negotiation.

Money received from sale of the buildings would go to the Riley Children’s Foundation, per the wishes of the Nellie Bundy Bailey Trust.

“We have an obligation to the Riley Children’s Foundation to get the most out of this transaction,” Wheatley said, “and make this asset productive for the foundation.”

Previous tenants of the two buildings in that block had expressed frustration with the property management company on two fronts – a lack of maintenance and inflexibility in selling either of the properties to them.

Wheatley said sale of the buildings was not possible until April. 

“We petitioned the court to modify the trust and allow the buildings to go up for sale,” Wheatley explained. “That petition was approved in April.”

As for maintenance, she said the “asset manager has been here several times.”

Wheatley said both properties were officially listed for sale in July.

“There has been interest shown by multiple sources,” she said.

Monday night, City Council members quizzed Mayor York about comments he made following discovery of the massive mold problem in the building. The Courier-Times quoted York as saying the city had made an offer on the building. City Attorney David Copenhaver clarified that to say New Castle Main Street, a non-profit organization, had made the offer, not the city.

“We appreciate the mayor and the city’s interest in this property,” Wheatley said. “We are working diligently to restore it to a better condition.”