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story.lead_photo.caption ANDY SHUPE NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE Willie Leming of Leming and Son Trucking in Lincoln operates an excavator Sept. 4 while demolishing the former Town House Apartments in Lincoln. The city filed a complaint against the owner of the building, alleging multiple violations and unsafe conditions. A court order to allow the city of Lincoln to demolish the complex took effect July 6.

By Lynn Kutter

ENTERPRISE-LEADER

LINCOLN -- Neighbors stood-by last week as Leming and Son Trucking in Lincoln razed the dilapidated Town House Apartments on 119 N. Carter Avenue.

"I'm just glad to see this thing go," said Mary Young, who has lived across from the two-story apartment building for three years.

Her neighbor Billy Gene Harvey agreed, saying, "I've been concerned because it was basically a dump and a fire hazard."

Willie Leming operated an excavator and started tearing down the building about 7:30 a.m. Sept. 4. Dakota Leming said it would probably take about a week to complete the job and clear the property of all debris. The city is paying Leming $45,000 for the job.

Mayor Rob Hulse said he stopped by to see the progress.

"It's down," Hulse said the next day. "It's piled up but it's down."

Hulse said the city believed in this situation it needed to step in and take action.

"The city is not in the business to condemn and take down structures," Hulse said. "In this case, we felt we had to take action for the safety of the tenants and the safety of the surrounding community. We needed to step in and take care of this."

The city of Lincoln filed a complaint in Washington County Circuit Court against property owner James D. Stewart on March 5, asking the court to declare the apartment building a nuisance based on its rundown condition and to condemn the property because of multiple violations and unsafe conditions.

Judge Doug Martin ordered Stewart to repair or tear down the property on or before May 21. The deadline passed without any changes or repairs being made to the building. Stewart later agreed to settle the lawsuit and the agreed court order gave the city the authority to demolish the building.

An asbestos survey required by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality came back with negative results. City officials then sent a letter to ADEQ notifying the agency of its intent to proceed with the demolition.

The building had multiple problems, as outlined in reports submitted by Jay Norton, fire administrator, and city building inspector Jeff Hutcheson. Some of their main concerns were broken windows, trash and debris, leaks, mold, failing electrical outlets, lack of plumbing, ventilation and dysfunctional heating and air units.

Fire concerns were that the building did not have firewalls or sprinklers. The second-story balcony was considered unstable and unsafe if firefighters had to get people out.

Dakota Leming, who also is a member of the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, said the work to get the building demolished has been a long, drawn-out process.

"I'm just glad to get to this point," Leming said. "As far as the Chamber goes, this is a great opportunity for cleanup and beautification of the city."

Leming said the building was in "absolutely" poor condition with rotten floors and rotten wood in the balcony.

"The amount of cockroaches and rodents was astonishing," Leming said. "The walls and floors looked like they were crawling with cockroaches."

Another neighbor, who did not want to give her name, said she was "extremely happy" to see the building come down. She said she had the police department on speed dial because of what she considered suspicious activity and other problems at the apartments.

Neighbors claimed the building was a place with drug activity and other illegal activities.

Russell Morphis, assistant police chief, said officers responded to calls at the building over the years. Some were drug-related or alcohol-related calls, disorderly conduct and noise complaints.

"Over the course of all the years, we had those types of calls to this location but we had those types of calls to other locations also," Morphis said.

According to county records, Stewart has owned the two-story complex since June 4, 1987. The property has .32 acre.

The court order gave Lincoln the authority to attach a lien to the real property to try to recoup its demolition costs if the property ever sells.

Hulse said the city will assess all its expenses related to the demolition and file a lien on the property for those costs. Expenses include legal fees, asbestos testing and demolition.

"We'll look at everything," Hulse said.

General News on 09/12/2018

Print Headline: Lincoln Apartments Come Down

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