City will bill owner of former St. Elizabeth Hospital property for work

The process of securing the former St. Elizabeth Hospital in Hannibal resumed on Wednesday. However, instead of personnel working for the site’s owner, Steve Owsley, performing the chore, it was members of the city’s Street Department.

Wednesday’s labor was in accordance with an order issued Tuesday afternoon by 10th Circuit Court Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd during a hearing in the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal.

“The judge had instructed me to talk to the city manager about whether there was anything we could do (to secure the Virginia Street property),” reported City Attorney James Lemon prior to the start of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting at City Hall. “The city has looked at it. We do not have the staff and equipment to seal up the upper floors, but we can do the lower floors. The judge gave us an order giving us permission to go in and seal the lower floors – weld doors, fasten wood (to windows), install fences.”

As for the costs that are incurred by the city while sealing the building’s lower level, Lemon said “any money we spend will be a judgment against Mr. Owsley and it will also be a lien against the property.”

According to Lemon, the securing of the upper levels at the former St. Elizabeth Hospital remains the responsibility of Owsley.

“The judge also ruled that all of the other provisions of her (Nov. 29) order remain in effect. In other words, it’s still on him to seal the second and third floors, and to do so within the timeline,” he said.

During the Nov. 29 hearing, Shepherd gave Owsley 20 days to have all windows on the second floor closed or sealed with plywood if the glass was broken. All windows on the third floor are to be closed if they aren’t broken. If they are broken they must be sealed with plywood within 40 days.

“He (Owsley) is still accruing a $100 a day penalty,” said Lemon, noting that the deadline to seal the second floor windows expired on Dec. 19.

Another update of the judge will occur in early January.

“We’ll advise how much work the city has been able to get done. He (Owsley) is supposed to come back and announce what he’s done,” said Lemon.

If little or no progress is accomplished by Owsley, Judge Shepherd is prepared to do more than issue a fine.

“Her order specifically held that jail time is on the table if he does not comply with her order,” said Lemon.

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