Apathy is a public nuisance

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A community’s problems are meant to be solved, not overlooked or ignored

By Stevie Lowery

One of my biggest frustrations as the publisher of The Lebanon Enterprise is when a legitimate problem and/or concern is brought to my attention, the newspaper reports on the problem to educate the community, but then nothing is done. 

The newspaper itself can’t solve the problem. 

I fully understand that. 

That’s not the newspaper’s responsibility.

The newspaper’s job, however, is to bring a problem and/or concern to light, discuss the problem with the powers that be, give people the facts and report what we find. Then, it’s up to the community, especially the people who are most impacted by the problem – to try and come up with a solution. 

During my 15 years here at the Enterprise, I have had many people come to my office, call me and write to me to share a concern or problem in hopes that I can help bring attention to it via the newspaper. For instance, last year during this time, I dedicated much of my professional and personal time gathering facts, interviewing people and reporting on the local drug problem. Now, I fully realize that my reporting isn’t going to solve the drug problem. It’s a problem that exists in every community throughout the country. But, it’s a problem that needed to be discussed in a very public way. So, I wrote a series of stories about the problem from every angle I could think of – from the addict and their families, to the court system, to the resources that are (and aren’t) available. That series of stories was sparked after having numerous conversations with Marion County Jailer Barry Brady. He came to me with serious concerns about our community in regards to the drug problem and how it’s ruining lives, which is something he witnesses firsthand every day within the walls of the Marion County Detention Center. I vividly remember a phone call with him when he said, “Stevie, we’ve got to do something.” 

I can still hear the desperation in his voice.

I’ve heard that sense of desperation many, many times while working at the Enterprise. Often times, people don’t know where else to turn. They want someone to listen to them. They want to have a voice.

A good newspaper is a community’s voice.

So, when people come to me with a valid concern or problem, I listen. 

In the past, I’ve listened when parents have come to me to share their concerns about bullying in school, and I’ve reported on that issue.

I’ve listened when residents of the Loretto community have come to me with concerns about Maker’s Mark Distillery and the “warehouse fungus” that’s growing on their homes, cars, lawns, etc., and I’ve reported on that issue numerous times. I have a feeling I will be reporting on this issue for the foreseeable future.

I’ve listened when people have complained to me about the lack of retail and entertainment venues in the community, and I’ve reported on that issue. This continues to be an issue, and it’s frustrating because I don’t know what the solution is. If I was filthy rich, I would take matters into my own hands and build an amazing entertainment complex with movie theatres, arcades, a bowling alley - the works. But, I don’t have the money to make that happen. I wish someone who did have the financial means would make it happen. Not to make a profit, necessarily, but to improve the quality of life in his or her community.

But, I digress.

In 2016, I listened when Carolyn Green came to my office to share her concern, aggravation and disgust with the abandoned building located near her property on Radio Station Road where she’s lived for more than 46 years. The abandoned building, located at 405 Springfield Highway, used to be the site of a sewing factory. But, it’s been vacant for more than 15 years, and is being overtaken by vines, trees and wildlife. It’s also become a safety concern because there’s been evidence of people participating in drug activities inside the building. The abandoned building is tarnishing not only Green’s neighborhood, but also the entrance into the city limits of Lebanon.

Green has questioned local officials about what, if anything, could be done about it. One response she received was, “They pay their taxes.” 

“Well, I pay mine, too,” Green said, “and I think that place degrades the value of my property.”

I agree with her 100 percent.

The abandoned building is not only a huge eyesore as you enter the city, but the thought of what could be going on inside the building is even more disturbing. When I reported on the issue, I attempted to contact the owners of the property, Lefferts L. Mabie III and Margaret M. Mabie of Tampa, Florida, but the telephone numbers I was able to find were no longer in service.

According to records in the Marion County Property Valuation Office, the building and property itself is valued at approximately $380,000. Originally, the property had a fair market value of $690,000, according to the deed filed in the Marion County Clerk’s Office.

When I spoke to City of Lebanon Building Inspector John Thompson in the summer of 2016, he indicated that it was likely the building would eventually have to be torn down. 

“It’s not going to be long until it gets to that point that we are going to have to force her [the owner] to do something with it,” Thompson said to the Enterprise in 2016. “We’ve gotten rid of a lot of our sore spots, but we still have a few. I think eventually it will have to be torn down.”

Two years later, and the abandoned, neglected building is still sitting there.


I know the city has been successful in winning condemnation cases in the past. In 2015, the city won a condemnation case involving a piece of vacant, abandoned and neglected property located at 200 Boldrick Avenue, which was deemed to be a public nuisance, as well as unsafe and hazardous. The property was demolished. 

Problem solved.

In 2013, the city won a condemnation case involving property at 304 E. Walnut Street, which was vacant, abandoned and neglected. The city demolished the property. 

Problem solved.

And, in 2011, the city cited Frank Spragens for multiple violations of the nuisance property ordinance for his property, which was located at 322 S. Proctor Knott Avenue. As a result, Spragens had the house demolished. 

Problem solved.

So, let me pose my question again: Why is the abandoned, neglected building on Springfield Highway still sitting there, tarnishing the entrance to our beautiful city and creating a safety hazard for residents and businesses nearby? 

Is it because of money? 

Is it because of apathy?

Maybe a mixture of both? 

Whatever the reason, it’s been sitting there, vacant, for more than 15 years.

We have a nuisance property ordinance for a reason. Why is it not being enforced?

Enough is enough.

It’s beyond time for the owners to sell the property, or for city officials to take matters into their own hands and seek to have the property condemned.

Myself, along with many other residents in this community, want to see this problem solved.