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Council hears update on damage to Castle Theatre

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Second reading of an ordinance establishing a land bank was the only item on the agenda at Monday’s New Castle City Council meeting. Yet, water was on everyone’s mind.

Water that invaded the former Castle Theatre over the weekend, that is.

New Castle Water Supt. Greg Phipps reported that between 90,000-and-100,000 gallons were pumped out of the historic building, where heat had been totally turned off and pipes apparently burst after being frozen during last week’s cold weather.

Phipps confirmed that the city would charge the company in charge of managing the building for the water usage along with the labor it took to pump it all out.

“Under our policy and procedures manual in the water department, if we have what we deem as an emergency situation, we have the power to go in and make the repairs to what we deem is an acceptable level and then bill the property owner for our time and the water used. We didn’t fix their problem but we got it to a point where somebody can go in and fix their problem.”

Councilman Rex Peckinpaugh asked, “Will we make sure they fix their problem?”

Mayor Greg York immediately replied, “Yes.”

“They’re not going to get their water turned back on until they do,” Phipps added. 

“They left the water on, left the electricity on and turned the gas off,” York added. “So I presume the line frozen during our cold weather on Wednesday and it just got thawed out yesterday. There is a basement underneath the ticket office, the concession stand. They took a cover off a window on the side of the street and the water was higher than that. It was touching the light bulbs. There’s a boiler that was totally under water.”

Phipps said he and his crew spent about five hours Monday pumping it all out. Water reportedly was as high as seven feet in the basement of the building.

York reiterated that New Castle Main Street is still interested in the facility.

“We’ve been working diligently with them for the last three months and it hasn’t happened yet,” York said. “This was a property that was donated and now managed by J.P. Morgan Chase. They have to go to court and get a statement saying that they can sell it or gift it. 

“It’s something we’re interested in as a multi-use venue – old movies, weddings and live music, among other things,” York said.