No taxes have been on paid on Union St. Express property since 2005

The site of a long-closed convenience store on the city’s South Side will soon be back on Marion County’s tax roll after County Collector Harry Graves indicated he felt an offer for the property is fair.

Graves reported having received a $7,000 offer from George Lee Jr. for the former Union Street Express convenience store site, located at Missouri Highway 79 and Union Street in Hannibal, during Monday’s meeting of the Marion County Commission at the courthouse in Palmyra.

“I just wanted to inform the Commission and make sure there are no problems or concerns about Mr. George Lee Jr. wanting to buy the Union Street Express,” said Graves.

The sale did not require formal approval from the Commission.

“I don’t know that you need to vote,” said Graves. “As collector, after a property has been offered in a tax sale a number of times I can just sell it over the counter if I deem it’s a reasonable offer. I think in this case $7,000 is a reasonable offer.”

Based on past feedback from the Commission regarding the property, Graves felt obliged to consult Commissioners Lyndon Bode, Larry Welch and Steve Begley.

“I understand the County Commission some time in the past gave instructions not to transfer this property to the (county) trustee. They were afraid of any liability because this was a gas station once and there might be (underground fuel) tank issues, not that anybody knows of it, but there were just concerns,” said Graves.

“He (Lee) realizes he’s buying it as is?” asked Bode. “We don’t know if there is any past problem there and that would actually go back to the past owner since we’ve never taken possession.”

While Begley playfully suggested that Graves try haggling Lee’s bid up to $8,000, the collector indicated he is happy to have an offer at all.

“This is a property that doesn’t have taxes paid since about 2005 and has been in the tax sale many times and nobody has bid on it,” he said. “The current tax bill is now $6,943 so Mr. Lee is offering just a little bit above that amount.

“I want to get rid of it and get it back on the tax rolls. A year and a half from now we can issue a tax bill. The biggest benefit to the county would be to get it back on the tax roll.”

“Sounds like a good deal,” said Welch following Graves’ comments.

“I know on the South Side they’ll be happy to hear that,” said Bode regarding the property sale.

One group of South Side workers who will likely be impacted by the sale are faculty and staff at Stowell Elementary School who use the former convenience store’s lot, located just across Union Street from the school, as a parking area. Although impossible to determine how many vehicles belonged to school district personnel, on Monday afternoon a total of 16 vehicles were parked in the Union Street Express lot.

According to Rich Stilley, business manager for the Hannibal public school district, contingency parking plans are already in place.

“Staff will be able to park in the lot at Southside Baptist Church. We have had a long standing agreement with them,” he said.

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