JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
As part of an agreement with property owners, Jefferson City taxpayers will cover almost all of the cost of demolishing a crumbling downtown building.
The owner of 200 E. High St., Andy Neidert, agreed to pay the city $7,300 for the demolition, which is estimated to cost $186,000.
The Jefferson City council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to execute a demolition contract for 200 E. High St. and to keep 202 E. High St. standing.
A shared wall connects the two buildings, which sparked a legal battle after a portion of 200 E. High St. suddenly collapsed in June 2018.
After the collapse, the city deemed both buildings dangerous. Pending lawsuits and stalled private negotiations led the city to threaten both sets of owners with demolition if they did not do something.
As a result, the city made a deal with Carol and Ruben Wieberg, the owners of 202 E. High St., and Neidert.
Carol Wieberg told ABC 17 News after the vote that the agreement will "get us moving forward."
Neidert did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The terms of the agreement include;
- Neidert transfers ownership of the shared wall to the Wiebergs.
- Neidert transfers ownership of the remaining property to the city.
- The Wiebergs have 21 days to shore the shared wall to their building, thus preventing it from falling when 200 E. High St. is destroyed.
- Neidert pays $7,300 for the demolition of 200 E. High St.
- Jefferson City pays for the rest of the estimated $186,000 demolition.
- The Wiebergs agree to drop all litigation against Wieberg and the city and to not sue for any damages to their building during the demolition of 200 E. High St.
The estimated cost of the demolition does not include the removal of trees or asbestos inside of 200 E. High St., according to a proposal by the company, ARSI Inc.
Previously, the city considered destroying both 200 and 202 E. High St., which the Wiebergs consistently contested.
After the partial collapse of its western wall, the value of the historic building at 200 E. High St. plummeted.
In January of 2018, six months before the collapse, the Cole County Assessor's office valued the property and building at $319,000.
One year later, the office valued the property at $42,700. The evaluation did not include the building because the city deemed it dangerous for occupants.
202 E. High St. was built after 200 E. High St. more than a century ago. The west side of 202 was built leaning on the eastern wall of 200.
In late 2018, after the collapse, Neidert filed a lawsuit against the Wiebergs claiming ownership of the shared wall. A judge agreed with Neidert, citing an agreement from 1892.
Different Takes from City Leaders
Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin did not participate in Tuesday's council vote, but she said the agreement brings closure to an 18-month saga.
"It’s understandable that people might prefer that the property owners take care of the whole thing," Tergin said, "but that doesn’t solve that problem. In fact, not only does it not solve the problem, it doesn’t solve it anytime soon."
Council members Ron Fitzwater and Carlos Graham were the only ones to vote against the agreement, which Tergin signed on Wednesday.
Fitzwater told ABC 17 News that he felt the council was rushed into the decision and could have avoided more of the cost.
“I’m not upset at anybody for their vote. I just couldn’t bring myself to the point to say, ‘this is a good deal for the City of Jefferson'... it felt like we had some leverage that we could’ve taken back and gotten a better deal," Fitzwater said.
"For us to spend tax payer’s dollars for someone else’s building, I don’t this is right," Graham said before the vote.
Tergin said overall, the cost to the city will be worth it.
"In the long run, this keeps (the matter) out of the courts, it brings closure, and there are a lot of benefits that go along with it. Because it’s going to cost money either way," Tergin said.