Mayor Carrie Tergin had a clear mission at Monday night's joint meeting of the Jefferson City Council and the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners at City Hall.
The stated agenda of the meeting was the "prioritization of property that may be acquired" under the East Capitol Avenue Urban Renewal Plan, a reference to a letter the Housing Authority mailed to the owners of 46 structures in the area last Wednesday. After an hour's spirited, amicable discussion, the authority voted unanimously that 105 Jackson, 108 Jackson, 500 E. Capitol, 401 E. Capitol and 103 Jackson were the properties to be restored first.
Those are the same five addresses that won a straw poll of 65 residents taken at a public meeting Jan. 10.
In a nutshell, the mayor's goals for Monday night's gathering were: demonstrate unity between the two bodies on the urban renewal topic, prioritize a first group of houses for restoration and initiate the appraisal of those parcels as a first step in the project. She achieved all three of those objectives at the meeting, which had been advertised as a two-hour session and wrapped with a couple of minutes to spare, although almost two dozen public officials and private citizens voiced opinions.
Early on, Tergin suggested to Housing Authority chairman and Cole County Collector Larry Vincent a belief a "top 10, top 12 or least a top five of these properties should be prioritized out of this meeting." After the Housing Authority commissioners' vote, Tergin said, "This is going to be viewed very favorably by the public."
Her assessment drew concurrence from Commissioner Larry F. Kolb, Councilman Rick Mihalevich and at least a half dozen residents who went to the podium during the public comment section of the meeting.
Even Linda Buettner, who with her husband, Gary, owns 606 E. State St., praised the urban renewal plan and the prioritization of properties.
However, Buettner spoke aggressively against the "may be acquired" letter she had received last week. Buettner said her property was well maintained, "may need some paint" but certainly didn't deserve the ostracism imparted by inclusion on the list.
She and her husband have owned the two-bedroom 19th century brick bungalow for more than 30 years. The Buettners said they've never received a code violation, which the city did not dispute Monday night. Housing Authority Executive Director Cynthia Quetsch said there were properties on the list of 46 which got there because they failed an eyeball test when the St. Louis consultants who conducted a blight study toured their block.
Other frequent advocates of East Capitol Avenue renovation, including Holly Stitt, Dave and Cathy Bordner and Steve Viele, offered their accolades for the meeting and its positive results. Veile said he had been attending city meetings for many years and could not recall such a productive gathering of different elements of the municipal government with the high level of communication expressed Monday.
Stitt suggested the commissioners and council should assess the properties in the East Capitol plan under different criteria, not collectively scored as architectural value, health and safety risks and historical significance.
"This is huge, so huge," Cathy Bordner said. She also recommended the Housing Authority and city consider retaining a facilitator to lead the urban renewal project.
As compliments were being shared about the Council Chambers, Tergin used more than a few minutes to praise the work of Quetsch, whom the mayor said didn't know she would be tasked with a project of the magnitude of urban renewal but has "embraced it and is seeing it through to a successful conclusion."
Quetsch said after adjournment she had received an unequivocal set of marching orders from her commissioners, namely to contact Moore & Shryock Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants LLC, the appraisers contracted by the authority, and assign them work orders for the five properties identified on the prioritization list forged Monday.
Quetsch said the firm could take up to 90 days to conduct the appraisals, billing the Housing Authority for its work at four levels, based on the property involved.
Parcel data about the properties on the Housing Authority's top five list, with owner's name, address and the latest assessed valuation: 105 Jackson, owned by Barbara Buescher, 429 E. Capitol Ave., $13,870; 108 Jackson, owned by Buescher, $32,470; 500 E. Capitol, owned by Buescher, $36,310; 401 E. Capitol, owned by Buescher, $9,100; and 103 Jackson, owed by Steven J. and Cheryl M. Bratten, 3623 Twin Hills Road, $25,790.