Lin­coln Apart­ments Come Down

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

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.


Left: Wil­lie Lem­ing of Lem­ing and Son Truck­ing in Lin­coln op­er­ates an ex­ca­va­tor Sept. 4 while de­mol­ish­ing the for­mer Town House Apart­ments in Lin­coln. Cen­ter: Dakota Lem­ing, and his fa­ther, Wil­lie Lem­ing walk past the for­mer apart­ments while work­ing to de­mol­ish the build­ing. The build­ing had 16 apart­ments and was con­sid­ered un­safe for any oc­cu­pants. Right: An aban­doned pickup sits nearby as the for­mer apart­ments are de­mol­ished. A court or­der to al­low the city of Lin­coln to de­mol­ish the com­plex took ef­fect July 6.

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