Construction for athletic facilities by Jefferson City High School is expected to begin in May, but the Jefferson City School District still has one property left to acquire before it begins construction.
When the May 2019 tornado damaged houses in the neighborhood by Jefferson City High School, some residents contacted the district about buying their properties. The district then sent a letter to every homeowner in the area, asking them to contact the district if they were interested in selling their properties.
The houses are in an area bounded by Stadium Boulevard, Jackson Street, Oberman Place and Adams Street. It is located immediately northwest, across Jackson Street, from the high school’s Adkins Stadium.
An athletic facility will be built in the area, which will include a baseball/softball field with dugouts, bullpens, batting cages and bleachers; a press box, concessions, restrooms and storage facilities for use between fields; a soccer field with lighting and home and visitor bleachers; a tennis complex with eight tennis courts; a pavilion with restrooms, concessions, storage and a viewing deck; and elevation of visitors bleachers at Adkins Stadium.
The district’s goal is for the fields to be ready for use by the fall.
The district has acquired all but one of the properties needed to start construction, Chief Financial/Operating Officer Jason Hoffman said.
The building on the property at 419 Union St. sat destroyed from the tornado with its roof torn off, in a state of disrepair, for about a year until the city recently tore it down because it posed a safety hazard.
The property was owned by ACM Vision V, a limited liability lease-to-own housing company tied to Vision Property Management, a South Carolina-based firm.
The city placed a lien against the owner’s property for the cost of demolition, so the company now owes the city money.
The company didn’t pay property taxes in 2019 or 2020, according to the Cole County Collector’s Office.
The district wanted to inquire about purchasing the property but could not reach the property owner, calling numerous times but receiving no response, Hoffman said. In August, the district sent certified letters to three addresses listed under the company but still did not receive a response.
The News Tribune attempted to reach the property owner but did not receive a response.
Hoffman is working with local attorney Duane Schreimann to acquire the property through eminent domain.
The Board of Education voted in November to officially start the eminent domain process, but the district informally started the process before then, Hoffman said.
The district hired a state-certified property appraiser to give an estimate of the value of the property by the end of this month. After the appraiser estimates the value, the district will send a 60-day legal notice to notify the owner of the district’s intent to condemn the property and what their rights are.
From there, the property owner must send a written offer within 30 days, and it must be at least the amount of the appraised value. If an offer is not made within 30 days, the school district can file a condemnation petition.
A judge would then order a panel of three appraisers to look at the property and ensure they agree with the determined valuation, Hoffman said. Once the valuation is filed, the school district is permitted to pay that value and take possession of the property.
The district spent about $3 million to acquire the properties, and construction of the Jefferson City High School facilities will cost approximately $8 million, according to the district.
There is one house, on Adams Street, that the district tried to purchase but couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner. The house is located right on the outside of the area of land the district acquired, so the district was able to work around the property.
A few property owners originally said they didn’t want to sell but later changed their minds. Hoffman said they didn’t discuss the cost or negotiations, and he doesn’t know why they changed their minds.
“We’ve said all along that we’re not going to pressure anybody,” Hoffman said. “We’ve just had really good conversations and just left the door open.”
Vincent Kempker, who currently lives on Union Street, originally said he would not sell his property, even if that meant he would live right next to an athletic facility. But he eventually decided to sell because the house about 2 feet next to his will be demolished, and he was afraid it would mess up his house’s foundation, he said.
He also didn’t want to pay for the damage to his house, such as the cracked walls, plaster falling off the walls and ceilings and a water heater that needs to be replaced, he said.
“I figured I might as well let it go,” he said.