City spent almost $65,000 five years ago on demolition, asbestos inspections and removal

Ordinarily the city of Hannibal is all for seeing new development on old building sites. However, on Tuesday night the city council not only wouldn’t, it couldn’t, clear the way for the sale of a downtown lot and subsequent new construction.

The property at 418 Center St., the former site of the YMCA, is owned by Sue and Clyde Beers, who would like to sell the 0.26 acre lot. Sue Beers advised the council on Tuesday night that they have been contacted by a party that would like to purchase the site and construct a building there.

“It’s a beautiful lot in the downtown area,” she sad.

City Manager Jeff LaGarce offered in a memo to the council that “in its present form, this site does little good for downtown Hannibal.”

Because the city had to pay for the demolition of the century-old building, the city has liens on the property which combined total almost $65,000. Those liens amount to more than the lot is worth, reported Beers, who requested that the city reduce or completely waive the fee so that the sale could be completed and the site developed.

Mayor James Hark advised that even if the city was inclined to help by reducing or forgiving the lien, by law it is not at liberty to forgive special tax bills.

Even if the city were not prohibited by statute from addressing the liens, LaGarce questioned if such action would be fair to taxpayers.

“Hannibal taxpayers bore that extraordinary expense,” wrote the city manager in his memo. “Were it legal to forgive special tax bills, doing so would directly enable Mrs. Beers to profit from the sale of 418 Center St. Candidly, this would be an affront to Hannibal taxpayers, who are still owed $64,803.”

Councilman Mike Dobson proposed to Beers that the property be transferred to the city at no cost. The city in turn would sell the property and recover a portion of the demolition’s cost.

“If Mrs. Beers is working with a potential investor, the city could instead work with that same investor, negotiate a fair sale price with them, recover at least some of the lost demolition cost through the property sale, and the investor could make a productive investment beneficial to them and to downtown Hannibal,” explained LaGarce.

Beyond the solution proposed by Dobson, LaGarce sees few alternatives for the site which he called “economically blighted” since its “financial liabilities exceed its entire value.”

“I can think of no other way to legally uncouple the economic shackles at 418 Center St.,” wrote LaGarce. “But I do know we cannot forgive special tax bills, and see no other way for this property to again become investment viable.”

Beers said she needed to consult with her realtor before accepting or rejecting Dobson’s proposal.

The demise of the old YMCA building dates back a half decade when the city, because of the property’s condition, was forced to condemn and then demolish the structure.

“At the time of demolition this multi-story building was actually leaning over the adjacent home on Fifth Street, which was visually frightening,” wrote LaGarce.

Asbestos inspections cost the city $1,390. Removal of the asbestos resulted in an additional bill of $3,353. Demolition cost $60,060.

According to LaGarce the $64,803 expense came at a difficult time.

“The city’s fiscal stress was at its height during that post-recession period,” wrote LaGarce. “Only $40,000 per year was then allocated for demolitions, and this project alone was a budget buster.”

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