Council approves abating nuisance building in downtown Mitchell, allowing for demolition

Shown here is the 124 E. First Ave. building that has been deemed a nuisance and uninhabitable. The Mitchell City Council approved abating the property to allow for it to be demolished. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

An uninhabitable building that’s corroded in downtown Mitchell will be coming down after the Mitchell City Council approved the abatement on Monday.

The building, located at 124 E. First Ave., has been plagued by years of neglect, causing severe damage to the exterior and interior. Following the council’s unanimous approval to authorize an abatement, it clears the way for the city to demolish the corroding property in the near future.

“This has been another one of the longtime nuisance that we have been dealing with along the downtown area,” City Attorney Justin Johnson said.

The city has issued the property owners several “order to corrects” dating back to 2012. The most recent order to correct that was issued for the nuisance conditions include fixing the foundation, roof and siding, along with repairing the windows to prevent birds from entering the building. The violations that led the city to hand down the most recent order to correct included failure to maintain exterior, rodent issues, vermin, insects, other pests and overgrown vegetation. Johnson noted the building problems have led to safety concerns for the neighboring property owners.

According to the city’s building code, a property owner has 14 days to correct the nuisance conditions. Failure to do so can result in the city repairing the building issues and charging the property owners with special assessment to recoup the costs or a conviction for violating the ordinance that carries a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. However, property owners have 10 days to file an appeal for an order to correct.


“The damage inside the building is pretty extensive, and the detection is significant,” Johnson said. “The ceiling is sunk in about 2.5 feet, and the basement is inaccessible at this point due to the stairs collapsing.”

In the past, tenants once occupied the top floor of the building. But after the property was neglected and began withering away, it was deemed uninhabitable.

In 2018, an order was issued to then property owners Jose and Maria Guzman, who “failed to comply with the order,” ultimately leading to citations for violating city code. Among the repairs that were included in the 2018 order to correct were fixing the windows, painting the exterior and siding and removing the old sign frame on the corner of the building facing the East First Avenue and South Lawler Street intersection.

Shortly after the citations were issued, the Guzmans failed to appear in court and authorities were unable to arrest them for their bench warrants. The Guzmans sold the property in 2019 to current owners Santos Mejia Cerritos and Maria Emelina De Mejia.

Johnson said Cerritos was initially interested in correcting the nuisance conditions and repairing the structure. However, he later informed the city that the repairs were too costly. According to Johnson, the current property owner, Cerritos, is not opposed to the city demolishing the structure and assessing the costs to do so.

The demolition is anticipated to cost roughly $25,000, Johnson said. After the recent walk-through, Johnson said the demolition costs increased due to some additional work that was identified in order for the neighboring building not to be damaged in the midst of the process.

"It may be a little tricky considering the building is located in the downtown historic district," Johnson said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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