505 Walnut St. to be deeded to city, which plans to sell property to new owner

When a condemned structure winds up the city’s responsibility, taxpayers normally wind up footing the bill for its demolition. On Tuesday night the Hannibal City Council agreed to take possession of a house deemed unsalvageable, only this time the cost of tearing it down won’t come from public coffers.

The house at 505 Walnut St., which City Manager Jeff LaGarce pointed out is “literally falling down,” is owned by F n A Investments, Inc. According to LaGarce, F n A is wanting to deed the property to the city for a total of $1.

Ordinarily the city would balk at such an offer because along with the purchase price would also come the cost of demolition. But this time is different as there is someone interested in taking ownership of the property.

“Joe Anderson has expressed interest in this property,” said LaGarce, adding he can’t explain why Anderson doesn’t deal directly with F n A in order to acquire the site. “Mr. Anderson will happily purchase this property from the city for $1.”

According to LaGarce, Anderson intends to eventually tear down the eyesore, which is visible from Missouri Route 79.

“Mr. Anderson intends to remove the dilapidated home, perform all groundwork finish to an attractive standard and maintain the property as his own thereafter,” said the city manager.

Even though Anderson has cautioned the city that it will “take several months to remove the structure,” LaGarce is willing to be patient.

“We can afford the time because the sequence of events is a rare opportunity to remove blight at no public cost, while simultaneously assuring post-demolition care of the property by a responsible owner,” said the city manager.

LaGarce cited some of the other benefits that will be seen by the city as a result of being the “middle man” in the transactions.

“This outcome is better than a city demolition approach, where city demo costs are expensive, a demolition lien placed on the property acts as a deterrent for future buyers, and the property which is still owned by the party who allowed its deterioration remains unkept thereafter,” he said.

At the Council’s Tuesday, Aug. 21, meeting a resolution authorizing the $1 sale to Anderson will be presented for final approval by Council members. In the meantime, a deed conveying 505 Walnut St. from F n A Investments to the city will be recorded.

Before the Council voted to acquire the property LaGarce revealed there will be more than a $1 expense. He explained that a title search revealed that the owner of the property owes Marion County $781 in back taxes.

Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal, who also is a member of the Building Commission, called the back taxes an “unfortunate” development. However, she still voiced support for the transaction, noting that it would ultimately result in a “huge savings” for taxpayers to pay the back taxes owed as opposed to demolition costs.

Mike McHargue of the Street Department estimated that it would cost between $4,000 and $5,000 for city forces to bring down the structure because of an assortment of special obstacles that the demolition would present.

Councilman Colin Welch, who also sits on the Building Commission, said that while he would like to see F n A be held responsible for paying the taxes, he offered the motion for the city to proceed with the acquisition 505 Walnut St. and its subsequent sale to Anderson.

There was little sentiment on the Council for passing the bill for back taxes along to Anderson since he will be paying for the demolition.

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