Posted Online: Jan. 05, 2013, 11:42 pm

Status of vacant Silvis properties still unknown

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By Leon Lagerstam

SILVIS — City leaders are checking to see if they can give two abandoned properties to Habitat for Humanity or a building trades class at United Township's Area Career Center.

The sale of a third property is expected to be approved at a Jan. 15 Silvis City Council meeting, according to Ald. Kathy Hall, 2nd Ward.

Silvis resident Maurice Versluis submitted a $12,630 bid for a lot at 2311 19th St.

The property is in Mr. Versluis' backyard, City Clerk Jim Nelson said."He's considering extending his yard and making an orchard."

In November, the city council unanimously authorized selling the properties. Bids were due Dec. 14. Mr. Nelson said state statutes required any accepted bids had to be worth at least 80 percent of the properties' assessed value.

A bid for 507 16th St., Silvis, came in below that mark and had to be rejected; and no bid was received for a lot at 158 10th St., Silvis, according to meeting minutes.

"What that means is we would either have to put it out to bid again, or list the properties with a Realtor," Ald. Hall said. "If we auctioned them off, it would be highly unlikely we would get the required 80 percent value, and if we put them in the hands of a Realtor, we would have to still get that 80 percent and Realtor fees.

"If we could give it to Habitat for Humanity or to UT, they could construct something on the property and we would be able to get them back on the tax rolls," Ald. Hall said, adding that city attorney Dean Sutton is checking on the legality of giving the properties away.

The 16th Street property is assessed at $22,500, so would have needed an $18,000 bid; and the 10th Street lot was valued at $9,000, and could have been bought for $7,200, Mr. Nelson said.

The city, assisted by theBi-State Regional Commission's Municipal Code Enforcement System, known as MUNICIES, spent $35,000 to $45,000 to buy the abandoned properties and pay for demolition, asbestos abatement and related costs.

Any proceeds from selling the properties would help offset the costs of buying and razing any future abandoned properties, Ald. Hall said.

At least three other properties may fall into that category, "If property owners don't respond to what we're asking for them to do," Mr. Nelson said. "It's not that close, yet, but we will use the MUNICIES system again if we need to take them over."

Silvis joined MUNICIES early last year, which Ald. Hall credited for ''helping to clean up some abandoned properties that needed to be done for some time."

Last March, city officials were alerted that bats that lived in the house that once stood at 158 10th St. were biting or scratching kids, who had to undergo painful rabies shots.

Bright red ''Danger'' signs on the house before it was torn down warned that the building was "deemed unsafe for human occupancy.''

City inspector Tom Lupinski once called the house "the worst piece of abandoned property in Silvis."

Silvis Mayor William Fox challenged the city council to find a way and the money to tear the house down. According to Ald. Hall and Mr. Lupinski, joining MUNICIES helped pave the way.