Protecting the price of demolitions could be a problem

When Jefferson City demolishes a building or takes mitigation measures to fix violations of the regulations, one of the goals is to get the property owners to repay it to the city.

However, this can be more complicated than it sounds.

The city pays the first bill and files a tax bill against the owner.

Real estate inspector Dave Helmick said the owner has an option to pay the bill, but if it's not paid it becomes a tax lien.

The last four city demolitions took place at 519 E. Capitol Ave. for $ 87,849, 1324 E. Miller St. for $ 12,372, 1001 Washington St. for $ 12,780, and 1421 St. Mary & # 39; s Blvd. for $ 12,790.

Planning and Protection Services director Sonny Sanders said all four have had problems with tax bills since August 2020 and have not yet paid any.

"We get our reduction money back," he said. "The demolition is not that successful."

Mitigations include things like nailing windows and cutting grass when a property doesn't comply. The associated tax fees can go through the same process as demolition fees, but are usually less.

If a bill is not paid, the county can foreclose the property due to unpaid taxes, City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said.

"For dangerous buildings, the law also says the amounts are a personal debt of the property owner," he said. "That is why we will sometimes file a lawsuit against the property owner for reimbursement of these costs that we spent on private property."

In 2016, for example, the city won a lawsuit against property owner Barbara Buescher for $ 24,785.

The lawsuit included $ 17,000 for the demolition of a building at 111 Adams St. and 18 other charges for the diminution of various properties it owns. The demolition cost $ 16,900, Sanders said. The verdict on the case took 17 months. After the legal dispute, Büscher continues to own the property.

With a successful lawsuit, the city was able to seize Büscher's salary for this amount.

The city filed another lawsuit against Buescher in May for the demolition of 519 E. Capitol Ave. for $ 88,099. Moehlman said he wasn't sure how long this suit will last.

Helmick said he gave the city legal department a list of other demolished properties for them to investigate as well.

"It's one of those things that they estimated, on average, up until three years ago, that every three to five years a property would be shown because there was no money for it," he said. "Now that we can actually start getting caught up, the legal department can do what it needs to do and anyone can start moving forward and we can start making a change."

The city is preparing to make a dent in the 15 buildings slated for demolition, or the final step in that process, after the city council approved an additional $ 300,000 for demolition on June 21, along with an additional $ 15,000 for renovation measures.

One challenge, Moehlman said, is that the tax lien sometimes becomes more than the property is worth, making it harder to sell or market to someone else.

"In addition, the landowners occasionally go bankrupt or are otherwise stable," he said. "Sometimes these amounts are difficult to collect, but we do everything we can to get repayment in accordance with the law."