City moves to demolish one building, investigates possibly tearing down others

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By Shannon Brock

The Taylorsville City Commission voted last Tuesday to take action and move forward on four separate unsafe structures.
After several attempts of notification, with no sufficient response, the commission voted to demolish the structure located at 107 Reasor St., which is owned by Arnetta Lawrence.
Included within the informational packet for the meeting provided to The Spencer Magnet were three letters or notices send to Lawrence regarding the status of the structure. The most recent letter, dated Sept. 11, was a report from Steve Clark, the Spencer County Building-Electric Inspector.
Clark wrote that he had been contacted by an electrician to do a final inspection of the residence. At the time of that inspection, Clark noted four electrical violations as well as seven safety concerns that had not been corrected.
The condemnation notice and order on the structure at 107 Reasor St. was issued on Jan. 31.
Commissioner Beverly Ingram made a motion for the city to demolish the structure, which was seconded by Commissioner Larry Waldridge. Ingram, Waldridge and Commissioner Kathy Spears voted in favor of the motion, while Commissioner Nathan Nation and Mayor Don Pay abstained. The motion passed.
Ingram then made a motion to demolish the structure located at 57 Jefferson St. However, after some discussion, the motion was amended to get a cost estimate on demolishing that structure. Because the building is attached structurally to another, commissioners wondered if the cost might be especially high to demolish.
The property at 57 Jefferson St. is owned by Helen McKinley and was vacated by order of the state fire marshal on Nov. 11, 2011. The city issued a notice and order to McKinley on May 7, and stated that she had “60 days to make the improvements necessary to bring the structure into compliance to be deemed ‘safe’ or to demolish the structure.”
The structure has not been demolished and has not been brought into compliance.
Ingram’s motion to get a cost estimate on the demolition of the building passed, again, with Ingram, Waldridge and Spears voting in favor and Nation and Pay abstaining.
Because Nation is also the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Chief, who brings unsafe structure complaints before the commission, he typically abstains from voting on such issues because of a conflict of interest.
However, Ingram asked Pay if he planned to abstain from all of the votes regarding demolishing property.
Pay responded yes, that he had a “real problem” with the city taking down another person’s property.
“But I don’t fault you for your vote,” Pay said.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, an abstention is not a vote, but a refusal to vote. Still, it may be counted as a “no” vote, in which case, the motions still passed by a majority of the commission, 3-2.
The commission also voted 4-1 to restart the condemnation process on 503 Garrard St. The structure had been condemned under its previous owner, Helen McKinley. But the property has since been sold to Michael Monroe. Given the new ownership, the city voted to restart the process and give Monroe the opportunity to bring the structure into compliance.
Ingram, Pay, Spears and Waldridge voted in favor; Nation abstained.
Nation also called to the commission’s attention a mobile home on Carpenter Drive, and the commission voted to send that property owner a letter, notifying him/her that the home is in violation of the unsafe structure ordinance.

In other business:

•The commission heard from Spencer Countian Evy McKemie, who questioned them on whether or not they had a water rate study conducted, as is called for in the city’s water policy. McKemie said she contacted David Spenard, the assistant attorney general in charge of water rate interventions for consumers, who has since requested a list of water-related materials from the city, including a copy of the city’s most recent water rate study, a copy of the current rate schedule and copies of financial audit statements from the past three years.
Mayor Pay confirmed that the city has been in contact with Spenard, but told McKemie that getting into a discussion about the city’s most recent water rate study would take longer than the allotted three minutes for comments from citizens.

•During the city’s discussion about its long-term debt, available cash and capital items needed within the next year, Commissioner Nathan Nation made a motion to retire two of the city’s debts: a 2001 sewer bond for $612,000 and a 2008 Phase III Water Project bond for $196,000.
Nation’s motion failed for lack of a second.
According to financial information provided in The Spencer Magnet’s informational packet for the meeting, the city currently has $8,031,610.10 in long-term debt. Its available cash ($3,008,027.35) minus the cost of the needed capital projects ($520,000), leaves a total of $2,488,027.35 available for debt retirement.
Nation voiced his concern that the city borrows an excess of funds before paying any off.
“Since ‘88, we borrow and we never pay anything off,” he said.
“It’s our responsibility to manage the finances of the city. We need to start to reverse the trend of what we’re doing.”
Commissioner Kathy Spears said the city has been advised on multiple occasions not to pay off debt until its need for capital projects lessens.
“RD has always advised us, as long as we’re doing projects [not to retire debt],” Spears said.
“It’s about common sense financial matters,” Nation said.
“Well, we don’t have any and you do, sorry,” Spears said.
“You don’t have any, you haven’t demonstrated any,” Nation said.
Pay said he expected the issue to come up again and asked the commissioners to move onto another topic.