A storm damaged building in the middle of Straughn has been vacant for many months. Much of the roof is missing but the part that remains was picked up by wind and reset off center on the building. (David Burns / C-T Photo)
STRAUGHN - For four years, Debbie Smith has worked across the street from what she says is a nightmare.
Her nightmare is a large brick building at the corner of U.S. 40 and Road 500 East in the center of Straughn.
The building's roof has been destroyed and a piece of what remains hangs off the side of the structure. Glass from broken windows lies on the sidewalk, and the inside of the building, which is filled with tires and trash, smells like a sewer.
"I can't express how many dead-ends I've come to," Smith, the clerk-treasurer for Straughn, said on Thursday. "I might as well stand and pound my head against the wall."
For years, Smith and other Straughn residents have sought ways to have the building, which stands across U.S. 40 from the town hall, demolished. So far, they've come up short.
But now, the town's demolition project is one of 100 finalists in a State Farm-sponsored online competition that will award $25,000 to 40 different projects across the U.S.
To win the money, all Straughn needs is votes on Facebook.
Asked about the $25,000 on Thursday, Smith said, "It would mean everything."
Problems with the century-old brick building on U.S. 40 began in January 2008 when a serious storm roared through Straughn, a town of about 280 people in western in Henry County.
To this day, residents of Straughn say it was a tornado that hit their town on Jan. 29, 2008. But the National Weather Service classified the storm as straight-line winds.
Whatever it was, the storm damaged homes and shifted the brick building's roof off the structure, leaving a portion of the roof hanging off the east side of building.
Since the storm hit, the vacant building has continued to deteriorate. It's roof is now completely destroyed, windows have been broken out, and the front of the building is moving away from the side walls.
Smith worries that one day, the front of the building will collapse onto U.S. 40.
Once, last month, Smith was working in the town hall and it was storming outside. She heard a car wreck but thought the building across the street was finally coming down.
She said to herself, "Oh my God, the building's falling."
The building's owner, who didn't have insurance, has abandoned the property and has stopped paying property taxes on it, according to Smith.
Bambi Boyd knows the building's story well. She lives a few feet away from it on U.S. 40.
When high winds blow through Straughn, the winds often knock pieces of debris off the building and onto her property and sometimes into her house.
"Right now, it's a cat breeding farm," Boyd said of the building. "You can smell the feces and the urine and the mold."
People have also thrown rocks through the building's windows, and others have stolen items out of it.
"It just needs to come down," said Boyd, who is also a member of the town council.
The council and Smith have tried over and over again to get help to knock the building down.
The cost of the demolition could be anywhere form $15,000 to $25,000, Smith said. The town's annual total budget for all of its operations is just $35,275.
The town council has considered taking out a loan for the project, but Smith isn't sure the town could afford to pay the loan back.
Smith said the town has also contacted the Henry County Commissioners but was told the county has no money available for the project.