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story.lead_photo.caption LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER A Washington County Circuit Court order is posted on one of the doors at Town House Apartments in Lincoln. The order gives the city of Lincoln the authority to demolish the apartment complex after 10 days. The 10 days expired Friday.

LINCOLN -- A court order to allow the city of Lincoln to demolish a dilapidated apartment complex took effect Friday but city officials do not think any action will take place until later this month.

Property owner James Stewart agreed to settle a lawsuit Lincoln brought against him over the condition of the structure, the Town House Apartments, a two-story complex located at 119 N. Carter St.

The agreed order for the settlement was filed in Washington County Circuit Court on June 26 and it said the city could demolish the structure no sooner than 10 days after the entry of the order or Friday, July 6.

Lincoln City Council member Doug Hutchens said the city will make sure everyone is out of the complex and then turn off the utilities. Lincoln has received a bid of $45,000 from Willie Leming of Lincoln to raze the building. The expenditure will require City Council approval because it exceeds $20,000.

Hutchens said he expects the Council will approve the demolition contract at its July meeting. He hopes the city will be able to raze the building before the end of the month.

Hutchens said the city will do several sweeps and a final sweep before demolition to make sure no one is still in the building.

Brian Key, Lincoln assistant police chief, said police served the court order telling tenants about the demolition and that they had 10 days to leave. Key said the order was served to five tenants living in apartments in the building at the time.

Thursday, only three people were still living in the building and they were moving their belongings to get out, according to one tenant, George Disotell. Disotell said he's lived at the apartment complex for three years and was not sure where he would live next.

"It's messed up," Disotell said, explaining he thought the building could easily be brought up to code.

"It needs to be fixed," he agreed. "If the city would turn it over to me, I would fix it."

Disotell said the building needs electrical and plumbing upgrades, Sheetrock and a new roof.

The court order says the city shall take all necessary steps to make sure the building is not occupied by any person. It gives the police department, fire department, building inspector and other city officials access to the interior and exterior of the building.

The order also authorizes the Lincoln Police Department to remove any person who has not vacated the property. The defendant does not have an obligation to provide notice or remove any remaining tenants, according to the court order.

The city filed a complaint against Stewart on March 5, asking the court to declare the complex a nuisance based on its rundown condition, to condemn the property and to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the owner from violating further city ordinances and codes.

Judge Doug Martin ordered Stewart to repair or tear down the property on or before May 21. That deadline passed without any changes or repairs being made to the building.

Some of the main concerns expressed by city officials included broken windows, trash and debris, leaks, mold, failing electrical outlets, lack of plumbing, ventilation and dysfunctional heating and air units.

Fire concerns are that the building has no firewalls or sprinklers. The second-story balcony is considered unstable and unsafe if firefighters had to get people out.

According to the lawsuit, Stewart has owned the two-story complex since June 4, 1988. County records show the property, including the building with 16 units, is worth about $173,000 and the land is valued at $21,000.

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, though City Attorney Steve Zega has warned City Council members he does not believe the city will be able to get back any of its money.

General News on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Court Files Order To Raze Apartments

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