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Stonger building receiving facelift

POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Construction workers begin tearing apart exterior of old Stonger building, located at 1 South Broadway Street, where they’ll secure building before winter.

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

The City of Peru began construction Monday morning at 1 South Broadway, the building where former Miami County doctor Tristan Stonger’s practice once resided.

Stonger was arrested in 2016 for several charges including fraud and issuing invalid prescriptions. HIs arrest came following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, where many of his charges came to light including Stonger intentionally making his patients suffer from narcotic dependency by over-prescribing medication so he could demand sexual favors in exchange for their prescriptions, according to information from Indianapolis news station RTV6.

Stonger was facing multiple charges in Miami, Monroe and Marion counties, and was convicted of five of his 55 felony charges in November of last year. Stonger admitted to two counts of issuing invalid prescriptions for legend drugs, possession of a narcotic drug, insurance fraud, and Medicaid fraud – and sentenced to 10.5 years of probation and no jail time.

The building where Stonger’s practice resided was seized by the courts as part of Stonger’s assets and left to fall into disrepair.

The City of Peru has been collaborating with the Miami County Economic Development Authority has spent the past nine months working to purchase the building.

“We had to get it released from the courts as one of his assets so the bank could then release the title to the city, but it all had to be done with Stonger’s approval and willingness to sell,” MCEDA Executive Director Jim Tidd said.

According to Mayor Gabe Greer, the city purchased the building for around $70,000, which included closing costs.

Construction workers are currently focusing on the exterior of the building as they remove the old signs, power wash the building, remove paint, conduct tuckpointing and so on.

“We’re getting the exterior of the building all secure before winter and making it look decent,” Greer said.

As far as the historical signs, the city and MCEDA plan to keep them and store them somewhere secure while they continue to speak with developers on what is going to be done with the interior of the building.

If the developer who is chosen for the project wishes to use the signs, they’le be available, or the city will preserve them for their historical significance, according to Tidd.

The exterior construction is slated to finish in November while details for the interior remain up in the air.

The city has spoken with several different developers and there’s been talk about apartments or some form of housing on the second floor and retail on the first, but nothing has been set in stone, according to Greer.

“We still have to make arrangements and come to an agreement with one of the developers,” Greer said.

In those regards, there isn’t a definitive timeline for when the entire project is expected to be finished.

“I don’t know if that timeline is months, years or maybe more,” Greer said.

Nevertheless, the primary purpose for the building right now is to get the establishment closed up and secured before winter sets in.

In addition to securing the building, the exterior construction will also make the building stand out in a more positive light and make it a key building in downtown once again, according to Tidd.

“Something needs be done with that building so it doesn’t continue to be an eyesore for the general public in the community and take away from the efforts of what other business owners are doing in the downtown,” Tidd said.

The construction is not only breathing life into a nearly century old building, but it’s also revitalizing downtown Peru.

“It’s an exciting project, obviously it’s something I’m passionate about, we’ve fought long and hard for control of the building,” Greer said. “I think it’s essential for Peru to have a vibrant downtown and buildings that remind us of our heritage.”