Burnt house becomes city liability for Marion

An abandoned house which was considered an eyesore in Marion and a code-violation nightmare for city officials has become a safety hazard and economic liability for the city after it was heavily damaged by fire two weeks ago.

Following a brief discussion about the structure at 216 N. Roosevelt during the May 4 council meeting, Mayor Mary Olson and other city officials decided Tuesday it deserved quicker and more swift attention to protect the public.

?I didn?t want this (house) to sit on the backburner,? Olson said Tuesday. ?The house is a dangerous structure and needs to be taken down and the area around it cleared.?

After grappling with what would be the best course of action, she said she met with Marty Fredrickson, public safety officer, and David Mayfield, city administrator.

Fredrickson said he and Mayfield drove by the house Tuesday to assess whether the structure could stay temporarily or if it needed to be removed at once before someone would get hurt and possibly sue the city.

?This is an immediate hazard and a public safety issue, ? Fredrickson said.

Fredrickson is aware of the house from having to deal with previous code violations — which is one reason it was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

The council adjourned Monday without making a decision about next steps, but. at that meeting, city clerk Angela Lange said a certified letter was sent to the owner(s) of the house, Polish Traders LLC in Willow Springs, Mo.

?The owner has not picked up the certified letter,? Lange told the council Monday.

In addition, councilors were not sure if the owner had insured the house, but asked Fredrickson to report back at the council?s May 18 meeting.

City attorney Dan Baldwin said Wednesday that if the house is unsafe and not livable, the mayor can declare the property abandoned and take action to remove it.

?The owner would then be charged (for razing the house),? he said.

The only other option the mayor and council had, Baldwin said, was working with the owner to determine if there was insurance money available to raze the structure.

?Even if the house is leveled (by the city), the lot still belongs to the owner,? he said.

The best choice, according to Olson, was for the house to be removed.
She signed the appropriate paperwork after the council met to initiate
the emergency action.

Fredrickson said Wednesday the city has hired Brian Grosse of
Peabody as lead contractor to take the house down and dispose of it.
Depending on the disposal fee (which can vary), Fredrickson estimated
the cost at $4,500.

Grosse will begin demolition Monday, May 11, and the work is expected to take about three days, he said.

Mayfield said the city?s expense to remove the house will be
assessed against the property. He also said the city could help haul
the materials to the transfer station.

Both the county and city now have liens against the house.

Jeannine Bateman, Marion County treasurer, said the house was bought by Polish Traders LLC in July 2006. She said property taxes in the amount of $917 covering 2007 and 2008 remain unpaid and once the house is taken down, the city will have a lien for demoltion work.

Betty Crihfield purchased the house in June 2006 at a sheriff?s
auction, county officials said. One month later, Crihfield sold the
property to Curtis Venn, doing business as Polish Traders LLC, for

The house fire was reported sometime before 5 a.m. Thursday, April 23, said
Mike Regnier, Marion fire chief. It took 12 firefighters, two pumper
trucks, a support vehicle, brush truck and four hours to extinquish the

Regnier said by the time firefighters got to the scene, the flames
had already destroyed most of the house. As a result, the cause of the
fire will probably remain undetermined, said Regnier, who has spoken
with the state fire marshall.

The value of the structure could not be estimated.

Attempts by the Free Press to reach Venn in Willow Springs were
unsuccessful after learning that Polish Traders LLC is not listed in
the Willow Springs area, according to a Sprint directory assistance





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