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Janesville has closed on 9 of 12 homes near planned fire station

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Neil Johnson
August 1, 2014

JANESVILLE—Nine down, three to go.

The city of Janesville continues to move ahead with buyouts of properties in the footprint of the planned Milton Avenue fire station.

As of Thursday, the city had closed on nine of 12 homes it plans to remove to make way for the $9 million fire station, and it could close on two more homes by mid-August, city spokeswoman Maggie Hrdlicka said Friday.

All told, the city reports it has spent $810,000 so far on the buyouts, which the city has handled through negotiations between homeowners and city relocation and property acquisition consultant Judy Adler and City Attorney Wald Klimczyk. 

That spending does not include relocation costs, which Klimczyk has said could total up to $25,000 for each owner.

The city initially estimated it could cost $450,000 to buy the houses, but it later earmarked $1.5 million to buy all 12 properties and relocate people who live in them, officials said.

So far, the city has paid above assessed and appraised value for properties in eight of the nine closings.

For example, the city June 29 bought one property, a home at 339 Milton Ave., owned by Rebecca Carlson, for $118,000. That home has an assessed value of $71,300 and an appraisal of $82,000.

Only one property, a home at 626 Prospect Avenue, has sold at or below appraised and assessed value. That property, a rental house owned by Bobbie and Joseph Meyer, sold for its assessed value of $54,000.

In a June interview with The Gazette, Klimczyk said sale prices climbed above assessed value because of “improvements” made by owners, such as new roofs, siding and interior remodeling.

He also said the council directed Adler and him to “make the closings happen” and to “be generous within reason and to make the (relocated) owners whole.”

In June, Klimczyk said owners of a few of the homes that had sold had not ordered appraisals. Yet an itemized list by the city shows the appraised value of all the properties sold so far.

It's not clear how recently they were appraised or whether new appraisals were made before the sales.

Typically, appraisals are done for homes that are being bought through eminent domain.

Klimczyk did not return calls seeking comment Friday, and Adler was out of the office.

If closings on two more properties move ahead this month, it would leave just one home before the city could begin talking about bids to tear down the properties down.

A review of city records on closings shows the remaining three properties are all rental homes. According to city records, they include:

-- Two rental properties at 345 and 347 Milton Ave. owned by Heidenrich Properties. They have an assessed value of $93,000.

-- A single rental property at 315 Milton Ave. owned by Timothy Duddeck. It has an assessed value of $79,300. 

-- A single owner-occupied/rental property at 622 Prospect Ave. owned by Andrew Thomas. It has an assessed value of $92,300.

Two of the homes are in negotiations this month, officials said, but the city has not disclosed which properties.

Public Works Director Paul Woodard said Friday that—barring anyone wanting to move the properties to another location—the homes likely would be removed in spring 2015.

That's later than earlier thinking, which was that the city could bid out contractors to begin gutting and tearing down the houses in fall. 

Woodard said the city continues to have contractors do site testing for the two-story, 37,000 square-foot fire station, which will replace the current Fire Station No. 1.

He said residents already have vacated three of the properties. He said the city plans by the end of August to offer up for bid some of the houses for potential relocation by private investors, including a historic, circa-1868 home at 327 Milton Ave.

The city would likely not pay any costs for moving the houses to another site.

Woodard said if nobody wants to move the homes, the city might try to bid out for removal of any useable or historically significant materials from the homes.

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UPDATE:

The three rental properties in the footprint of the fire station that haven’t sold will have an “income approach” when it comes to their sale, city Attorney Wald Klimczyk, who is negotiating the sales, said.   

That could lead to a higher sale price than assessments and appraisals of the property show, he said.

In a voicemail to The Gazette over the weekend, Klimczyk said that individual owners of the properties are working to calculate the value of improvements to the three properties, which he said are “furnished” and have had new roofs installed.

He said the fact they’re “income-generating” properties with tenants living there also will have a bearing on their sale price. The city will offset the owners’ loss of rent income through a likely higher sale price than the appraised value of the property, Kimczyk said.



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