The fate of two Main Street properties has been put on hold for three months.
On Monday, city lawmakers voted 4 to 1 to grant a 90-day delay on the demolition of two properties located at 101 and 103 Main Street that are now reportedly owned by the Sunflower County Ministerial Alliance.
In the absence of the Rev. Phillip McGee, head of the alliance, Adrian Brown, of Brown & Associates, made the request on behalf of the group. Alderman Darrell Simpson cast the no vote.
The decisive ballot came after a more than 30-minute discussion that involved several changes and addendums to the initial motion attempted by Alderman Ruben Woods.
In his final draft Woods said, “I make the motion that we allow you guys 90 days to come up with a plan. In the meantime we want you to report to us in 30 days about your progress. Secure the building, safety, health hazard and if you can (you say there’s a hole in the back?) that’s part of your safety and security.”
Throughout the discussion, Woods emphasized the safety and appearance of the properties.
He then added that cityinspector Elvis Pernell knows the specifications of the building and that he did not.
“But I do know that it is an eyesore and it’s unsafe,” Woods added. Elder seconded Woods’ motion and the vote was taken.
Pernell mentioned a major hazard and said that needed to be “100 percent secured.”
Speaking on behalf of the ministerial group, Brown said a letter was sent to the city from the alliance requesting the deferment of the demolition.
Mayor Steve Rosenthal responded, “We got a letter requesting to be heard at this meeting.”
In its June 11 meeting the aldermen had voted unanimously to demolish the buildings upon the recommendation of Pernell.
Speaking of the 101 building, Pernell said, “This property faces Front Street and you open that door, the complete floor has disintegrated and you have a drop down of about 15 to 20 feet. It’s impossible to repair it.”
At that time, only one of the buildings was presented as being owned by the ministerial group and the other was ascribed to Guaranty Bank, who reportedly re-acquired the property after a loan default.
Brown offered contextual information on the buildings, stating that the ministerial alliance acquired the 101 Main St. property in 2004 and has been trying to acquire the 103 Main Street property since that time because they were advised by professionals “that a true renovation” of 101 Main could not be completed unless 103 Main was also renovated and they only attained the second property around three weeks ago.
Brown said his intent was to document that the organization has not been just sitting on the 101 Main property and only recently jumped up to do something with the building.
Attorney Gary Austin questioned Brown about when the ministerial alliance regained access to the 101 Main St. property because they had apparently sold it to a private owner who eventually defaulted on a Guaranty Bank loan.
Brown told Austin that the ministerial group gained possession after the business owner’s default.
Simpson then asked how the group got possession of 103 Main Street. Brown said the building was donated to the group by Guaranty Bank. Rosenthal wanted to know what kind of offers were made for the group to get the 103 Main property.
Based on Brown’s reply, Rosenthal then asked Austin how many years 103 Main St., had been on the market. Austin surmised at least 10 years.
“Well, mayor and Mr. Attorney, you know that in a free market enterprise a buyer and a seller have to both be willing to come to an agreement,” Brown said.
He then explained that in years past the business owner and the ministerial group were unable to reach an agreement.
Rosenthal reiterated that his question was pertaining to the number of offers made.
He said, “You can’t come to an agreement unless somebody makes an offer to acquire, you mentioned that it had been trying to be acquired.”
Brown responded, “Well mayor, I’m not here to get into the specifics of how many offers, whether it was one or 2,000.” Rosenthal asserted, “But that’s my question though.”
Rosenthal insisted that Brown was not answering his question, which was related to how the Sunflower County Ministerial Alliance gained possession of 103 Main St., Brown said he could not get into the specifics of the offer only that the organization now has possession of both structures.
At one point, Woods spoke up and said he was not interested in the past but wanted to know the organization’s future plans and what they planned to do during the 90 days. He asked if they were going to fill in the basement and drain the water out. Brown said if granted, they were going to use the 90-day grace period to plan.
Rosenthal insists that one of the main reasons the property was adjudicated for demolition is because pieces of the canopy kept falling on people’s heads. He noted that people call city hall when that happens because they are walking on city streets, and if the board did decide to allow the stay the canopy would have to be taken down for the public’s safety.
Alderman Gary Fratesi referenced Gentry’s homecoming and noted something needs to be done before that.
Alderman Sam Brock asked Pernell about the number of letters sent out over the years to the ministerial alliance regarding the condition of the property and what responses were received. Pernell said he’s had very little response and at a time the alliance was in favor of having the structures torn down.
Brock wanted to know how an additional 90 days was going to make a difference when the group has not done anything over the past 10 years. Brown responded that the recent acquisition of both properties would make the difference.
Simpson asked if they had acquired the property knowing that it had already been adjudicated.
Brown said they didn’t know.
Simpson then wanted to know how they could get title to it knowing it was under adjudication. Brown said the owner didn’t tell them the property had been adjudicated and it wasn’t indicated on the title.
The proposed motion kept changing as the officials talked about erecting a wall or fence to encase the structure, the 30-day report requested by Brock and the additional time. Simpson said he would like to see something done to the property but didn’t have any confidence that it would.
According to Rosenthal the 2015 architectural cost estimate was $638,000. He said the city has recently gotten a bid of $80,000 just to make it “structurally sound” bringing the cost to $718,000 and making it the single largest investment in downtown if something were to be done with the building, he said.
Brown mentioned getting tax breaks, Rosenthal said that was dependent upon the number of jobs created. However, Austin stated that the property has not been taxed since 2004 although it should have been since it was not used for ministerial purposes “The county tax assessor made a serious error in not taxing that property,” he said.
Brown emphasized that the whole crux of his request was, “To give the organization proper access to do its due diligence, the board of directors have not met yet and they are looking to meet. They are going through a planning process to consider all options for development, re-development, sale, acquisition and a number of other considerations and in order to be able to do that they need the time to deliberate,” he said.
Alderman Marvin Elder suggested that Pernell advise the group on what is the best way to make the structures safe.
Pernell said, “I can work with them but still I would rather have some guidance of what to expect so they won’t think that I’m interfering.