Main Street Building May Pose Threat to Public Safety
This article originally appeared in the January 29 print edition of Howell County News.
The Willow Springs City Council heard the results of an engineer’s evaluation of 104 E. Main St., the building with the Keen Cutter mural at the corner of N. Center and Main Streets, during the January meeting on January 16. This building has been of concern to the City of Willow Springs for at least three years. City Administrator Beverly Hicks said in an interview in December that the City has been working with the building’s owner on solutions for public safety since 2016. Howell County News has reported on the status of the building’s disrepair twice since a portion of metal roof came off in high winds on October 21, 2019.
At the January City Council meeting, Hicks presented a report from a firm of engineers hired and paid by the City to evaluate 104 E. Main. According to the structural assessment provided by Allgeier, Martin, and Associates, Inc., “Repairs should be made as soon as possible. The masonry wall is currently at risk and poses a significant danger to the owner/occupant and general public should it collapse. If repairs are not made soon, collapse or partial collapse is probable...If the repairs are not completed before next winter and the building has not yet collapsed, it may need to be demolished.” The report goes on to suggest the City extend the current barricades to close larger sections of the sidewalk and parking.
In the City Council meeting, Beverly Hicks said, “We believe based on his recommendation, it does pose a danger to the public.”
She went on to state the engineer who evaluated the building, Jared Nichols, estimated the cost to the owner to adequately address the emergency issue would be at least $50,000. She said it is time to “push the envelope” with this building and made the recommendation that the City brings the engineer back to Willow Springs for an in-person meeting with the building owner which, “needs to take place very quickly.” Hicks was adamant, however that, “The City does not want to tear down this building.”
Discussion among the council members ensued. Alderman Phil Knott opened the discussion with his concern for public safety. Alderman Troy Yonker cautioned that the City could be setting an undesirable precedent for other owners of dilapidated buildings by performing the work and footing the bill in this case. Alderman Susan Rackley agreed with Alderman Yonker.
City Attorney Zane Privette joined the discussion with his advice about the liability the city could face due to the dangerous situation on city property, the sidewalk, or the liability the City faces if it does perform the repairs. His recommendation was to follow the nuisance and abatement ordinances and allow the ordinances to establish any timelines for action from the City.
Alderman Rackley expressed concern at the amount of money the city has already spent on this issue, which includes the cost of the engineer’s services in 2019 as well as several labor hours spent cleaning up the debris that have fallen from the building.
Without a formal motion, the Council requested Hicks to coordinate a meeting with the building owner, who was not present at the meeting, though he was invited, and the engineer to discuss more cost-effective options.
Alderman Rackley said, “I think if he doesn’t show up and participate at the meeting, then we move forward.”
Editor’s note: previous articles have incorrectly identified this building’s address as 100 W. Main St.