When Steve Owsley next appears before 10th Circuit Court Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd the owner of the former St. Elizabeth Hospital property in Hannibal will have legal representation. The judge made sure of that during a Tuesday afternoon hearing when she appointed Sara Ehret as his legal counsel in Owsley’s ongoing property upkeep dispute with the city.

When Steve Owsley next appears before 10th Circuit Court Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd the owner of the former St. Elizabeth Hospital property in Hannibal will have legal representation. The judge made sure of that during a Tuesday afternoon hearing when she appointed Sara Ehret as his legal counsel in Owsley’s ongoing property upkeep dispute with the city.

Shepherd’s action came after Owsley advised her that he had unsuccessfully tried to secure the services of multiple attorneys since his Jan. 17 hearing at the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal.

“I tried,” Owsley said regarding his attempt to hire a lawyer.

Ehret is an associate attorney with the New London based firm of Briscoe and Brannon.

Owsley told the judge he would try to contact Ehret on Wednesday. Shepherd encouraged him to try Tuesday afternoon, explaining that as soon as the hearing was over she would be calling Ehret to advise her of the appointment.

At least initially taxpayers will be paying Ehret’s fee, with that cost being added to what Owsley already owes the county as a result of a $100 a day fine Owsley has been incurring since Nov. 29 for failing to comply with Shepherd’s previous orders to secure the former St. Elizabeth Hospital complex by certain deadlines. The judge has noted previously that the total will continue to grow until the property is sealed in accordance with her previous ruling.

It was noted that Owsley has yet to pay any of the $3,338.32 that he owes the city for manpower and labor necessary to seal doors and windows on the first floor of the Virginia Street complex.

While Owsley told the court on Jan. 17 that he would have “no problem” paying the city fee by Jan. 20, on Tuesday afternoon Owsley reported he hasn’t had the necessary funds to pay the city’s bill. He added that he anticipated being able to pay the bill in “two weeks.”

In addition to making no payment to the city, neither has Owsley made an progress in sealing the building’s second- and third-floor windows that remain either open or broken out.

As Owsley had done during the Jan. 17 hearing, he again blamed the city’s sealing of the doors with plywood for his inability to get a worker inside the former health-care center last weekend.

“We went Saturday and the doors were boarded up,” said Owsley, referring to a set of glass doors located on the southeast corner. “I did not want to tear down (the plywood) after the city had put it up.”

Asked by Shepherd about Owsley’s allegations regarding the doorway being sealed last weekend, City Attorney James Lemon said “none of it is true.”

Shepherd asked Building Inspector Joey Burnham to accompany Owsley to the Virginia Street site to check on the access point.

At the scene, Burnham advised the Courier-Post that the door-covering lumber had been removed on Jan. 20.

Owsley acknowledged that while the doors were uncovered Tuesday, they had been sealed over the weekend.

“I don’t lie,” he told the Courier-Post.

Shepherd reminded Owsley that he needs to take steps to comply with her previous orders by the next hearing on Friday, Feb. 3, or run the risk of being incarcerated.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com