By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
A deteriorating building on First Street was the subject of concerns raised at the January regular session of the City of Parsons Council meeting. Carolyn Gray addressed the council concerning a building that is adjacent to one she owns on First Street. “It needs condemned,” Gray said. “And I’d like to know what we can do about it.”
According to Gray, the building, which shares a stairwell with hers, is leaning and is an imminent threat to her property. “It is a safety issue,” Gray said. “Its leaning towards my building.”
The condition of the neighboring building has begun to affect her property, as well, according to Gray, with damage being incurred to the foundation of her building. “Its beginning to break up my foundation on the front,” Gray said.
According to Gray, the neighboring building is gutted with even the ceilings removed. “You can crawl through my attic, in my apartment upstairs, and you can look down,” Gray said. “They have no ceilings, nothing.”
Gray said she has spoken with the property owner who claims to not have the funds to repair or stabilize the structure. “I’ve talked to the guy,” Gray said. “He told me he ain’t got the money to fix it.”
“I’ve put a lot of money in my building,” Gray said.
City Administrator Aggie Arnold said the City is aware of the situation. According to Arnold, the City’s Code Enforcement Officer has been made aware of the issue and is coordinating with Police Chief Kevin Keplinger to assess the property’s condition.
City Attorney Tim Stranko weighed in on the situation and said from a legal standpoint, the city was constrained by law, but there were remedies available once an official report on the property was available by the Code Enforcement Officer.“We’re constrained by law, of course,” Stranko said. “For the City to condemn a property, a properly certified code enforcement officer would have to find that property deficient as defined by the property maintenance code.”
Stranko said the report submitted to the City Administrator would be the first step for the City. Stranko also informed Gray that the report would be public record and she would only need request a copy if she wished. “That is our first step,” Stranko said. “We need a report signed by the certified officer.”
Questions of ownership arose at the meeting concerning the building in disrepair. According to Gray, the building was currently being leased to own. “I do believe he’s leasing to own it,” Gray said.
Gray said she has offered help to fix the building. “I even offered to help and he says he don’t got the money,” Gray said.
The City Council was a last resort, according to Gray. “I don’t have any other choice but to come to you guys to see what can be done,” Gray said.
Gray said her intention was not to see a business leave town, but instead wanted to work with the City to protect her property. “I don’t want to see any business go out of town,” Gray said. “I mean if he wants to fix it up, great. But I fixed my building up.”
According to Gray, she has been considering placing her building for sale, but is concerned over the impact the building next door will have on a potential sale. “I’m thinking about selling it,” Gray said. “No one is going to buy it with a building coming into mine.”
Council Member Melissa Jones asked Gray if the buildings were joined by a wall. Gray said they were not and further stated when asked about how the buildings joined by City Recorder Tim Auvil, said the buildings shared a common stairwell in the middle. Gray also said that the majority of the stairwell was placed located on the other building. “We share the stairway,” Gray said. “But I don’t have that much to share.”
Stranko informed Gray that the City may not be the only avenue Gray has in the issue. Gray said she had already contacted an attorney concerning the matter. “I didn’t mean to suggest that the City is your only solution,” Stranko said. “You may have some private action.”
In a follow up call to City Administrator Aggie Arnold, Arnold said the Code Enforcement Officer had met with the owners of the buildings separately and was going to hold a meeting with both owners together next week. Arnold also said that an official report had not been drawn up yet due to the ongoing conferences with the owners involved.