Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

May 21, 2013

Council conditionally agrees to buy properties

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — The Knoxville City Council agreed to purchase two buildings damaged in a March 25 arson fire, upon certain conditions be met. 

The fire was set inside 110 East Robinson, a building which had previously been condemned by the City. The fire damaged neighboring buildings, including 108 East Robinson. The owner of 110 East Robinson, Susan Vincent Lewis, offered the building to the City of Knoxville for no money. The owner of 108 East Robinson offered that building to the City for $5,000. 

The City began to research the abstract of 110 East Robinson, following the previous council meeting. City Attorney Bob Stuyvesant reported to the council Monday night that a judgment in small claims court existed against the building owner and that property taxes were due. Outstanding liability for the building is approximately $3,000. 

"Technically, the abstract is not clear," Stuyvesant said. Councilor Dave Roozeboom asked Lewis if she could pay the outstanding taxes on the property. She said she could do so on an installment plan. Council agreed to accept ownership of 110 East Robinson, and agreed to issue a promissory note to Lewis, at 2.5 percent interest. 

Following a closed session at the conclusion of Monday's meeting, City Manager Harold Stewart reported that the council agreed to purchase 108 East Robinson.

"Council agreed to the offer with conditions that the property owner pay all pro-rated property taxes up to the date of sale, update the abstract, provide clean title, and pay for all revenue stamps required as part of the transaction," Stewart wrote in an email.

Action was taken Monday night to declare and emergency and suspend rules for demolition to have these two buildings demolished as soon as possible. The buildings, considered dangerous long before Monday night, have become even more unstable. Jacks hoisted to support the upper level of 110 East Robinson have been removed, thus enhancing the hazard. 

A contract was awarded to Savage Dirt Works, pending they meet bidding and insurance requirements, to tear the buildings down for $27,500. This includes $17,000 to tear down 110 East Robinson, $8,000 to demolish a garage behind 110 East Robinson and $2,500 to demolish 108 East Robinson. There were four bidders for this contract. Sealed bids were opened by Mayor Don Zoutte at the council meeting. 

Asbestos testing was not performed prior to the council meeting. Stewart said, "We don't expect a lot of asbestos in there." 

An asbestos tester was contacted by Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik, who put the testing price between $295-395. Abatement of asbestos, if discovered, could be up to $4,500. 

"The faster we can get it done, the better," Councilor April Verwers said of the demolition. Demolition could take 3-4 weeks. 

Look for more on the council in the May 24 print edition.