City of Harriman leaders hold public meeting to figure out financial burdens from fire

HARRIMAN (WATE) – Leaders in Harriman met Tuesday night to figure out what to do about the historic old Miller Brewer building that burned down last week.

“We’ve yet to hear from the owner. We did outreach to the owner early on when it was happening but we’ve yet to see the owner at this point,” said Harriman Mayor Chris Mason.

The old Miller Brewer building is owned by Fikret Gencay, a businessman who owns four other buildings on Roane Street.

City employees say they have sent Gencay multiple notices about issues with his buildings, but he rarely responds.

After going through city documents, WATE 6 On Your Side discovered since 2004, Gencay has received 40 notices from the city, asking him to make improvements to his property. Reports show Gencay rarely responded.

Rockwood beautician Glenda Copeland says her salon was burned down in 2013 because of an issue with one of Gencay’s vacant buildings. The two buildings were next to each other.

“I felt terrible about it, I still feel bad about it,” said Copeland.

She says a water leak from his roof caused damage to here electric system.

“It was caused from the breaker, and it caught on fire and blew up my whole place back there, my shop, everything that I had in it, everything that I worked so hard for,” said Copeland.

She says she doesn’t want that to happen to anyone else.

In the meantime, a cause hasn’t been determined because of the ongoing fire but the city is taking pre-cautions for people’s health concerns with asbestos.

“We’re handling it as if it were to have asbestos in it which basically requires us to keep it wet anytime that you move it,” said Harriman city manager Kevin Helms.

Mason says Tuesday night’s public meeting will get the ball rolling on what to do next with what remains of the old Miller Brewer building.

During the meeting city officials said a contractor has been approved to move enough debris to put the fire out. They believe the cause of the fire is under the debris.

Officials have not approved further cleanup. After the fire is out, they will reevaluate.

During the meeting, WATE 6 On Your Side learned the county would have owned the property in April of 2015. Now the county, is debating whether to take the property or not from Gencay.

Mason says a company will be hired to start debris removal on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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