BUNKER HILL – The demolition of the first air traffic control tower built in 1942 at Grissom Air Reserve Base is back on the table after funding delays caused by the pandemic put the project on hold.
Miami County officials first took steps to demolish the tower in 2019 after applying for a grant under a scourge elimination program administered by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).
Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said the grant process was underway when COVID hit, leading OCRA to halt funding for the scourge.
Now that program has reopened and the county is continuing its claim asking the state for $ 333,000 to pay for the demolition. The grant requires a 10% county match.
Tidd said the demolition of the structure was due to take place soon, as the tower is abandoned after having been unused for 30 years. The building has been broken into on several occasions and poses a public safety concern for neighboring residents.
Debris also began to blow from the building and land in the taxiway of the airstrip inside the base. This required the military and county officials to quickly clean up the debris before it was sucked into the engine of a military or civilian aircraft.
“It’s in a very bad state of disrepair,” Tidd said Tuesday at a meeting of county commissioners.
He said if the county received state funding, demolition would begin in late fall or early winter and take between 30 and 60 days, including asbestos removal.
The tower was built when Grissom was built during WWII as a facility for the United States Navy. It served as the main air traffic control tower for decades. Over the years, the structure has also housed base operations, a meteorological detachment and administrative offices.
The tower ceased to be used around 1991, just before Grissom became an Air Force reserve base, which lost more than 800 acres from the facility.
After that, the building, along with dozens of other former military structures, was turned over to the county for redevelopment into commercial properties.
But that never happened with the aerial tower.
Tidd said that over the years investors have shown interest in turning the building into a WWII museum or a restaurant and hotel for aviators, but the projects never had the capital to get started.
Instead, the tower and adjoining buildings sat vacant, unused, and fell into disrepair.
Tidd said the county had hoped the tower would be demolished much sooner, but the process has taken longer since the state’s Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology determined the tower to be of significance. historical.
To make up for the loss of a historic structure, the county agreed to place a sign at the site with the history of the tower and send photos of it to all county museums.
The tower is only the most recent old military building to be demolished since Grissom was realigned as an Air Force reserve base.
Over the years, crews demolished the gymnasium and huge swimming pool once used by airmen. Ammunition storage buildings and bunkers that once contained bombs were also destroyed.
“We had to demolish buildings here in Grissom that really had no potential for reuse or redevelopment, and the tower is now part of that,” Tidd said in a previous interview.
The base’s current air traffic control tower was built in 2012 and replaced a second tower built in 1969. The $ 7.4 million nine-story structure serves both military and civilian aircraft that land at the base on the longest trail in the state.