The Jefferson City Housing Authority this week gave Cole County a check in hopes of taking possession of three properties in the East Capitol Avenue urban renewal zone.
The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday during a closed session to pay $153,000 for 101 and 105 Jackson St., owned by Barbara Buescher, and 103 Jackson St., owned by Stephen and Cheryl Bratten.
In a hearing Feb. 26, Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green will decide whether to transfer the properties into the Housing Authority's possession.
"This is long overdue, but I'm glad to see we're making such great progress; and we want to continue the momentum moving forward," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said. "This shows we are taking a very strong stance on not allowing these properties to continue to deteriorate any further than they have. This has been years and years of struggling with how to overcome the obstacle of these homes just being allowed to deteriorate, and it's great that we're moving this forward."
Last month, three court-appointed commissioners assessed the three properties. The properties at 101 and 103 Jackson St. were appraised at $55,000 each, and 105 Jackson St. was appraised at $39,000.
The $153,000 payment by the Housing Authority would cover money the property owners would receive for the three tracts and the cost of the commissioners' time.
Buescher owes $10,468 in taxes to Cole County and the Brattens owe $1,857 in taxes.
Cole County Collector Larry Vincent filed a motion this week requesting $12,325 of the $153,000 be paid as a distribution to the Cole County Collector's Office to cover the unpaid taxes before the rest is given to Buescher and the Brattens.
If the court transfers the properties to the Housing Authority, the board will send out requests for proposals for those who want to develop the properties. Housing Authority Executive Director Cynthia Quetsch said it has always been the board's intention to rehabilitate the properties.
Ryan Waters, who is representing the Brattens, told the News Tribune the Brattens would like to keep their home to rehabilitate but understand the city followed procedure.
"A statutory action such as this can be very difficult to overcome if the city complies with the procedures and steps they're supposed to, but I do know that my client did want to keep the property and has expressed that desire to the court," he said.
Court files do not list an attorney for Buescher. When the News Tribune contacted Audrey Smollen, who has represented Buescher in the past, she said she did not want to comment.
If these three properties are transferred into the Housing Authority's possession, the board might consider taking possession of other properties in the area.
"The board has been discussing that and while they haven't definitively decided that they're going to go for some more, they are moving in that direction so they are looking at all the other properties to help make a decision of which ones," Quetsch said.
Almost a year ago, residents, city staff and the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners listed seven top-priority properties in the East Capitol Avenue urban renewal area.
Five properties — 103 Jackson St., 105 Jackson St., 108 Jackson St., 500 E. Capitol Ave. and 401 E. Capitol Ave. — received the most votes from the public in regard to their historic value.
Properties at 101 Jackson St. and 501 E. Capitol Ave. were added to the list later at the suggestion of city staff.
The Housing Authority received appraisals for the seven properties in March.
In August, the Housing Authority filed the civil suit with plans to acquire 101, 103 and 105 Jackson St.
The authority offered to purchase the properties, Quetsch said, but Buescher refused, and the Brattens did not respond to the offer.
The Jefferson City Council approved the East Capitol Avenue urban renewal zone, bordered by East State Street, Lafayette Street, East High Street — including some parcels on the south side of East High Street — and Adams Street in 2016 after a study found the area to be blighted due to deteriorating conditions of some properties.