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Council updated on house condemnations

By Staff, 08/21/18 10:43 AM

PRECOTT – Fire will no longer be used to get rid of condemned houses in Prescott.

This is what Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Franks told the Prescott City Council at its August meeting Monday night.

Franks provided a lengthy report on his actions the past month, saying he sent out 50 letters overall, 23 to the east side of town, 17 to the west side, two for dogs running at large, two for horses, one for a goat eating a neighbor’s porch and five for inoperable vehicles. He said the office has a different system than before and he’s keeping it updated daily. According to Franks, 15 people responded to the letters and took care of their situations, but 35 didn’t. At this time, he pointed out, all he can do is send another letter as he doesn’t have the authority to issue a citation to offenders. The other option would be for liens to be placed on the properties in question.

Liens, he said, are a difficult and lengthy process, but the current ordinance doesn’t have fines set in stone for citations. He asked for a committee to be formed to help him work on this so he can move forward. This was done.

Roughly 20 lots, he said, needing to be cleaned have been certified to the state, meaning the state owns them for unpaid taxes, and this number will rise with several property owners delinquent in their property taxes. All the city can do with these properties, he added, is clean them up and place liens on the land to get reimbursed when the land is sold.

The problem, he said, is most of the owners are out of state and don’t respond to the letters they’re sent. He pointed out a property on Main St. where the city’s razed the house, but the property needs to be cleaned up. However, he continued, this will be a problem as the house was on concrete pier and beams, which need to be removed as well.

One house, certified to the state, has been put up for auction. The problem here is the land needs to be bushhogged but Black Locust trees have grown up on the property and the thorns will ruin tires. These trees will have to be removed before the land can be cleared. Franks said there’s also a sink hole on the property the county has agreed to provide dirt to fill in.

He told the council he works with the street and sanitation departments to get properties cleaned up.

The owner of a two-story house on E. Elm has, he said, said he’ll be cleaning the property up and will get the back taxes paid. The owner, Franks continued, is currently moving inoperable vehicles from the property.

A house near the Nevada Courthouse, built in 1924, is in bad shape. Franks said he’s had no luck contacting the owner, but someone has expressed interest in buying the structure and renovating it because of its historic value.

The biggest problem, he said, is the old Prescott Motors location on Hwy. 67. There are six buildings on the property, most being made of wood, but the main building is primarily metal and would require something besides a bulldozer to take down. The city, he added, doesn’t have the equipment or personnel to tear the building down.

He continued saying he has a list of houses needing to be razed, but none will be burned because of problems that occurred in the past. Instead, these houses will be knocked down and hauled off.

Mary Godwin, director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office (EDO), said there’s money in the budget for this. Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver said it costs between $1,500-$2,000 to raze and remove a house. The question was raised as to how to get property owners to pay to have these structures torn down. Vasser said the city could try and reach an agreement with the owner or put a lien on the property.

Councilman Jerry Hightower suggested the owner sign a contract with the city agreeing to pay for the removal for a specified amount. No action was taken on the suggestion.

Franks said several houses on the list have already been approved for condemnation. Vasser said other houses, not approved to be razed by the owners, need to be brought to him so he can prepare an affidavit and place a lien on the property. Those already condemned, he added, aren’t a problem.