The city of Mitchell’s long, grueling chapter of attempting to reach an agreement with the property owner of a dilapidated Third Avenue and Main Street building is seemingly over.
The Mitchell City Council entered into a special meeting Friday at City Hall, where the council unanimously approved a settlement agreement that paved the way for the city to bulldoze the Main Street eyesore. Absent from the meeting were council members Marty Barington and Jeff Smith.
City Attorney Justin Johnson opened the meeting by providing further details of the settlement agreement, which allows the city to pursue two scenarios; demolishing property owner David Finnell’s 301 N. Main St. building at an estimated cost of roughly $570,000, or demolishing all of the buildings on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street -- which would include Moody's Western Wear -- at a cost of $179,000. While Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said it’s likely the city will pursue the route of demolishing Finnell’s 110-year-old building -- which includes the Merchandise Outlet Store (301 N. Main St.) and Finnell's former tattoo shop (303 N. Main St.) -- the city has yet to officially decide between the two alternative options.
“At this point we don’t have anything in place concerning which alternative we’re going to be taking, and we’re exploring every opportunity available to keep the costs of demolition down,” Johnson said. “For the most part, we’re done with court proceedings, but we need to have a hearing at a later date for the judgment. But the city now has permission to go in and do the project.”
The agreement comes after numerous court battles between the city and Finnell over the past several years, along with a withdrawn settlement agreement in March. Most notably, the corroding building prompted the closure of a portion of Third Avenue, causing headaches for nearby businesses over the past two years.
Everson said the city’s ideal option of the agreement’s alternatives was moving forward with demolishing the entire corner block of Third Avenue buildings, which would include the adjacent Moody’s Western Wear and the entire 301 N. Main St. structure.
“We’ve had discussions and conversations with Moody’s Western Wear, but we just can’t seem to come to an agreement on the purchase price of the building,” Everson said, noting the offers of the building are beyond what the city feels comfortable purchasing. “At this point, we’re looking at having to spend $570,000 to try and keep Moody’s building standing and intact.”
Considering the city has been unable to reach an agreement with Skip and Diane Moody, the building owners of Moody’s Western Wear, Everson said the city will likely be pursuing the $570,000 demolition of Finnell’s 301 N. Main St. building.
“I think it will end up going to be a $570,000 payback to the city from Finnell, because we haven’t been successful in getting the Moody’s building,” Everson said following the meeting.
Regardless of which alternative the city ends up taking for demolishing the corroding structure, Finnell will transfer the building to the city on Sept. 3 for $1.
Johnson said Kim Cross, owner of Merchandise Outlet Store -- who is the existing lone tenant at 301 N. Main St. -- has asked for additional time to move out.
“We did stress to the occupant of the building to be out of there as soon as possible, and I was told he has new place lined up,” Johnson said of Cross. “We will continue to be talking with him about this as well.”
Johnson has spent the past few months clearing the way for the city to have the authority of placing a judgment on Finnell that guarantees the property owner will be subject to pay a minimum of $210,000. Johnson highlighted the judgment being included in the new agreement as a significant difference from the previously denied settlement agreement in May.
According to Johnson, the judgment amount is subject to change to match whatever the final demolition project ends up costing. Should the city move forward to place a judgment on Finnell, a court hearing at a later date would need to be scheduled.
“Whichever alternative we end up taking, we expect that minimum of $210,000 even if we end up being able to go with the cheaper alternative and tear down both buildings,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the property owners of neighboring business Moody’s Western Wear, will have the option to change course and sell their building to the city until Sept. 3. But as of now, Everson said that course of action is unlikely.
With the proposed 2020 budget hearing around the corner on Sept. 3, the council has set aside roughly $500,000 for the building’s demolition project.
“We had roughly half a million dollars budgeted for the demolition of the dilapidated building, and unfortunately, it’s a little over that budgeted amount,” Everson said. “If everything works out, we will have a little leftover contingency funds this year and we may have to move that money.”
While Everson would like to have as much money available in the contingency fund, in case of footing the bills for potential emergency items such as having to purchase a piece of equipment that could break down next year.
“It’s a relief to finally begin closing this chapter,” Everson said.
Council approves the sale of former Casey’s lot
The council approved the agreement to sell the empty lot at 701 N. Main St. for a total cost of $900.80. The council purchased the lot, which used to be a Casey's General Store, in December 2018, for $1.
Doerr Properties, LLC, will now be the company who owns the empty lot.