Last Thursday marked the end of the city of Seymour’s Home Reclamation Project, an initiative that began nearly two years ago.
Purchased were seven abandoned homes.
Six of the homes were razed, then the vacant lots were resold. The seventh home was sold to Seymour’s Sonny Van Ness, who is in the process of tearing down the old house at the corner of Charles and Washington streets.
Budgeted was a $50,000 loss.
The final tally was only $35,000 after the city’s last Home Reclamation Project property, located at 516 East Summit Avenue, was sold after three bids were received.
City aldermen voted 3-0 to sell the double lot on East Summit to Logan Bell for $8,300. South Ward Alderman Nadine Crisp abstained from the vote because her daughter, Delilah Johnson, submitted a bid for the property.
Bell plans to build a new home next year on the site.
“I’m very happy for Logan, and I’m really happy that we will see a new home on that lot,” Crisp said after aldermen voted to sell the property.
“This is what we wanted with this project. To see those abandoned homes taken down and new ones built in their place.”
Bell’s $8,300 bid was $300 higher than the $8,000 bid submitted by Andy Jonassen.
City Administrator Hillary Gintz said Jonassen told her that his intent at the property was to move the former Harold Owen home on the city’s east edge to the East Summit Avenue site.
Johnson’s bid was for $7,500.
“I think (Bell’s bid) is a fair one, although I’d like to see us get a little more,” North Ward Alderman Jim Ashley said.
“By the fact that all three bids are within $800 of each other, I feel we’re seeing what the market is on this lot,” Gintz said. “The Bell bid is the best one.”
“We need to sell it,” North Ward Alderman William Pogue added. “It’s a fair bid. We’ve accomplished what we wanted to accomplish there. Now it’s time to sell it and see a new home go up there.”
After Bell’s bid was accepted, Ashley noted that the city needed to consider “doing something” about a property at 216 South Division Street, which is in a state of total disarray.
“It looks like a bomb went off there,” he said.
South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer agreed.
“That’s in my ward, and that’s an item that was on my list to discuss tonight,” he said. “Hillary, didn’t we attempt to buy that home in the Home Reclamation Project?”
Gintz said former City Administrator Sam Burt made several attempts to buy the property.
“In the end, there were ownership issues,” she said. “We discovered there were several owners.”
Ashley asked Gintz and City Attorney Chris Swatosh if the city could do anything about the property.
“The bottom line is that it’s unsafe,” he said. “And I do know there is a man here in town who would like to buy the property if it could be bought. He would clean it up.”
Swatosh said the city could do what it did several months ago at two properties — one on Garfield Street, the other at the corner of Anderson and North Main streets.
“We could have Mitch (Plummer), who is our building inspector, check it out,” he responded. “If it’s unsafe, then he can do what (the city) did on those other properties ... he can have city crews post a notice on the entries that the property is unsafe, then we can board those entries up.”
All four aldermen said that option should be considered.
“I’ll add another property to that list if we’re going down that road,” Wehmer said. “The old Lester Rue property on Van Every Street is every bit as bad as that property on South Division. It is very unsafe ... on a street with a lot of children. If we’re inspecting (homes) and boarding them up because they’re abandoned and unsafe, let’s do that home, too.
“We’ve also got a couple more (homes) on East Summit that need to be looked at. This is something we need to stay on top of. A precedent has been set. It needs to be the same rules for all homes that are abandoned.”
Plummer said he would get a list of homes from Gintz, per the board’s wishes, and inspect them for safety issues.
Swatosh said he would complete any legal paperwork once the unsafe homes were identified.
In other action at last Thursday’s meeting, aldermen:
• Lowered the speed limit on Highway C in the city limits on the north side of U.S. 60. Mayor Richard Vinson noted that the speed limit when southbound motorists on the busy highway reach the city limits is 55 miles per hour.
“That’s too fast,” Vinson said.
The four aldermen agreed. Ashley suggested the speed limit at the city-limits sign be lowered to 45 miles per hour.
Once the East Steel Street intersection is reached, the speed limit will lower to 35 miles per hour.
Aldermen voted 4-0 to approve the change.
• Vinson appointed two new members to the city’s planning- and-zoning (P&Z) board.
They are Larry Brown and Jason Thompson.
Both names were given to Vinson by Alicia Hagen, who serves as the P&Z board’s chairman.
Other members of the board are David Carpenter, Mary Carpenter, Lyle Caswell and Sonny Van Ness.
• Voted to change the city’s ordinance on monthly meeting dates from the second and fourth Thursdays of each month to the first and third Thursdays.
Wehmer suggested the change.
“There are several people, and I’m one of them, who want to attend the school-board meetings each month, but we meet on the same second Thursday,” he said.
“Bob Crump, our emergency director, is a member of the school board. He can’t attend because of the conflict. It just seems odd to me that the two largest public bodies in Seymour meet at the same time each month.”
Gintz said a city ordinance will have to be amended at the next meeting of the aldermen to make the change.
A vote on the changed ordinance is set for the group’s next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9.
Once officially approved via the ordinance, the meeting changes will take effect next February.