PRINCETON – It’s been almost five months since a fire engulfed Habanero’s Mexican Grill and Cantina in downtown Princeton, yet charred portions of the building continue to be left untouched and in shambles at its location on South Main Street.
On Friday, insurance agent Pete Mangold of Princeton Insurance Group, confirmed the clean-up is slowly progressing. The hold-up has been the common wall located between Habanero’s and Tank’s Pet Store. He said the wall experienced structural damage during the fire, and a concern with engineers has been that the wall will collapse or cave into the pet store if any more of the Habanero’s building is torn down and removed.
The unstable wall has caused a drawn-out battle between the business’ insurance companies regarding who is responsible to pay to have the wall stabilized.
“Everyone wants to get this done and cleaned up, and that’s what the intentions have been this whole time,” said Mangold, who is the insurance agent for both Tank’s Pet Store and Habanero’s.
Shortly after the fire, a plywood fence was constructed in the front of the restaurant as a safety precaution. Workers recently removed the fence in time for the annual Beef & Ag Days celebration.
Mayor Keith Cain confirmed the front area of the restaurant was safe even though the fencing had been taken down.
In early May, crews attempted to clean-up the remains of the building when they discovered the unstable common wall and were forced to stall operations with fear the wall would collapse.
During this time, however, crews were able to determine the cause of the fire to be accidental, according to Mangold. He could not go into further detail on what exactly caused the fire.
After operations stalled, an orange snow fence was hung as a barrier from the disarray left behind the building. Time and summer heat have caused the orange snow fence to droop over and sag.
Although the fencing has wilted, Princeton City Clerk Pete Nelson said if the area is maintained behind the fencing it draws no concern for the city. The idea of the fencing is to keep wondering children and pedestrians away from the area. Nelson confirmed the city hasn’t yet had issues with trespassers through the building.
Nelson admitted he is a little concerned with how long the cleanup process has taken and the drawn-out issues between the two parties involved in the situation.
He said the city would like to see more progress in the next 30 days, adding the good news is the parties are now talking to each other and trying to reach an agreement. Nelson confirmed if it appears no progress has been made in the time frame given, the city will step in with reinforcement action.
Mangold confirmed a surveyor has recently been in to look at the damaged wall and a plan of action on how the wall will be fixed should be completed within the next week.
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