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City huffs, puffs, at neglected property owners

Prepares to ‘put the hammer down’ on neglected properties if not taken care of soon

News editor

Five months after city council handed out ultimatums to owners of four derelict Hillsboro properties, little has changed.

Prime Time convenience store has boards on the windows and locks on the doors, but extensive structural and cosmetic problems are untouched.

A decaying roof and rundown exterior at 308 N. Washington St. haven’t been fixed.

A pile of rubble, once a house, remains at 108 S. Cedar St., as does a garage that was ordered to be torn down.

Nothing has been done about a code-violating front door and crumbling condition of 206 W. B St., first cited last summer.

Owners of the Washington St. and Maple St. properties will be notified they have 30 days to comply with cleanup requirements, city administrator Larry Paine told council Monday.

B St. property owner Kevin Tidwell vacated the house and moved to Marion; Paine said he would investigate who now owns the house to determine what steps to take.

According to county records, Tidwell still owns the property.

“If no action is taken, then what?” council member Shelby Dirks asked.

“At that point we can bring the hammer down,” Paine said.

That includes options of repairing, replacing, or razing the properties at city expense, city attorney Joshua Boehm said.

Paine called Prime Time the “toughest nut” among the properties because it is owned by a Palm Beach, Florida, company and has year of delinquent taxes. It was listed in a county tax sale advertisement last week in the Hillsboro Star-Journal.

At a February hearing, contractor Sammy Derbas told the council Prime Time’s owners did not want to tear the building down and were willing to do the work.

“As soon as the public hearing was over and we asked for the engineering report, at that point everything stopped,” Paine said. “As far as I can tell, there’s been no attempt to come back to the property to do any restoration work.”

Mayor Delores Dalke expressed concern about recovering city expenses for any repairs or demolition, should the owners fail to comply.

“If the county is going to do a tax sale, and if we go in there and clean them up and we put our fees as taxes against those, then what happens?” she said. “Can somebody go in and buy them for $50 and we just lose?”

Boehm said that property tax liens were the standard way to recoup such expenses, and that liens could not be applied to other properties a person or company owned. In the case of Prime Time, Boehm said, the company could be structured such that the building is its only asset.

“So our only hope of getting our money back would be for us to buy them at the sheriff’s sale and then hope we can sell them for what we put into them,” Dalke said.

Boehm said other ways existed in which the city could be “made whole” that should be discussed in closed session because of various risks and liabilities.

In other business:

Dirks asked if concrete repairs at Floral and Grand Sts. could be done when concrete mixers for the Safe Routes to Schools sidewalk project were working in the area. Paine said doing so would be complicated because concrete loads for the sidewalk project were monitored by state inspectors.

Restoration of the historic water tower has started, Paine said. The new top is scheduled to be placed Tuesday.

Last modified June 17, 2015

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