Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

St. Marys council moves to claim building

Property owner has not responded to city's inquiries

By Sydney Albert

The city of St. Marys is considering taking legal action to buy the building at. . .

ST. MARYS - Council members plan to proceed with an eminent domain claim on a downtown building that would serve as the new municipal office.
Council members on Monday gave first reading of an ordinance that would allow the city to hire appraisers and enter into negotiations concerning the Palm building at 101-103 W. Spring St.
A resolution declaring the city's intent to appropriate the building was first introduced in February. The property owners have been notified since then as required by law, according to city law director Kraig Noble. The new ordinance is the next step in the process, and if negotiations over the building's fate fail, city officials could petition in court to allow them to take the property.
The city is interested in using the Palm building as a new municipal office. The current municipal building is about a century old and has various issues, including water leaks and crumbling ceilings, according to council president James Harris.
Council member John Bubp said some residents had asked if the city would consider using the old Chase Bank building at 125 W. Spring St. once the business closes.
Safety service director Greg Foxhoven said mayor Patrick McGowan and the city's engineering department held an internal discussion, and they agreed the Chase building didn't appear to be big enough to serve as the new city office. The city needs 13 offices, a conference room and council chambers. Chase officials also haven't approached the city concerning the building, though Foxhoven said city officials would consider an offer and keep their options open if approached.
Noble said in February that various entreaties had been made to the Palm building's owner over the years with no response. The property's title is held in the name of a corporation that "no longer exists on the books" and is no longer recognized by the state, he continued. No possible compensation amount was given at that time. However, Noble said if the process continues, the matter would eventually go to trial and a jury would decide the price.
Foxhoven said when officials made their third offer to the building owner, they included a notice that they would pursue eminent domain proceedings if the offer were not accepted.
The last time the city tried to appropriate property was in 1998, according to Noble. The city pursued land on McKinley Road for a retention pond, and although litigation was filed, the matter was settled before it went to trial.
In other business, Foxhoven presented pictures of the flooding that submerged parts of St. Marys on April 25 and 26, especially of houses in the area of South Wayne, McLaine and Hackney streets that have been prone to flooding in the past.
Homeowners in the affected area have shown considerable interest in a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that could buy the flood-prone homes, Foxhoven said. The first step would be getting houses on the south side of McLaine Street and the east side of Hackney Street into the program.
Bubp questioned if officials could do anything more to prevent flooding in the area, but the consensus was that everything they could think of doing was already being done.
"We make sandbags available. We deliver them. We help in any way we can. That's why this FEMA program, when it was first introduced to us, we were on board quickly because we knew we had a problem in that area," Foxhoven said.
Council members also,
• passed under rule suspension an emergency ordinance authorizing the purchase of stone from Con-Ag of St. Marys for the Miami-Erie Canal Tow Path Improvement Project. The purchase is not to exceed $80,000, with funds coming from a state recreational trail grant.
• passed under rule suspension an emergency resolution authorizing a demolition assessment. A detached garage on South Main Street was razed after city officials deemed it a dangerous building. The resolution would allow officials to assess the owner's property taxes for $3,620.80. Three previous requests for payment have gone unanswered by the owner, according to Foxhoven.
• witnessed Kyle Froning take the oath of office as a new firefighter and paramedic with the St. Marys Fire Department.
• forwarded a zoning request concerning a recently annexed 31.586-acre parcel of land on McKinley Road to the planning commission. The petitioners requested the parcel be zoned as industrial.
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