Lewisburg might buy old school

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lewisburg councilmen were to meet Tuesday afternoon in City Hall where they could have decided to buy what's become known as the red house on First Avenue North.

"It's the old McLean school," Councilman Ronald McRady said during a non-voting session on Thursday after Mayor Barbara Woods raised a question about what might be done about the house that's in disrepair.

Marshall County Clerk and Master Tommy Higdon is scheduled to sell the building and dozens more to collect unpaid property taxes from an auction at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the County Courthouse.

"I don't want anyone to come and say 'It should be saved,'" McRady said.

Greg Lowe, the man recently promoted to be the city's industrial development director, had sought condemnation of the property as he pursued his responsibilities as codes enforcement officer. He could not find the owner listed on property records. Michelle V. Driver is named in court records as the person who owes $5,648.99 in city and county taxes, plus the cost of the sale, Higdon said.

"The city is, more than likely," Lowe said, "going to demolish it, whether it owns it or not."

The house next door was demolished.

"I don't anticipate anyone paying ...to have a $10,000 cost liability," Lowe said.

Demolition couldn't start until a year passes after the city took possession, the codes officer said. The owner would have that much time to rectify the situation by paying back taxes and related costs of the auction.

"Part of the taxes," Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart said, "are due to the city of Lewisburg."

That could, depending on one's view of the situation, reduce the city's costs, according to discussion with her and other councilmen. Lewisburg would have to pay the city property tax bill to the court, but the court would pay that back to the city. The council might conclude that the taxes weren't going to be paid anyway, so it would be clearing a bad debt off its books.

A special called meeting of the council was set for Tuesday when a decision was to be made. By that time, the press had run for this edition of the Tribune. An update is to be posted on the newspaper's web site: marshalltribune.com.

Meanwhile, Higdon continues to update city and county property tax bills.

"I'm bringing them all up to date this year," he said. "If nobody buys it, I have to buy it for the city and the county. Then it would be owned by the city and the county."