Aldermen to consider buying properties

Jennifer Bailey|Commercial-NewsThe Hotel Harwal building at Harrison and Walnut streets is on a list of properties the city plans to purchase, with aldermen approval, at the upcoming county tax auction. City officials haven't been in the building for years, but they want to make a decision about its future.

DANVILLE — Looking through a list of almost 100 tax auction properties the city wants to purchase, many are just boarded-up, dilapidated houses scattered across the city in various neighborhoods.

The Danville City Council's Public Services Committee at 6 p.m. today at city hall will consider authorizing the purchase of the properties from the Vermilion County Trustee.

There are several on Sherman, Sheridan, West Harrison and others on North Jackson, Hazel, Bowman, Fairchild, East Main, Cannon, Cronkhite, Kentucky, Tennessee, Cleveland, Sager, Robinson and other streets.

The vacant Hotel Harwal building also is on the list at 101 W. Harrison St.

The city removed the building’s historic sign in April 2015. The city also boarded up the four-story, 42-room building in December 2014. The sign was removed due to safety concerns over the deterioration of the brick building. The hotel at Harrison and Walnut — which is how it got its name, Harwal — opened in 1928.

The building was used as a hotel and cafe for years, and was bought in 2002 by Eric Williams, who ran it as a transitional living facility for parolees. In 2007, the city deemed it uninhabitable because of numerous health and safety violations, and not having electricity. A couple of years later, barricades were set up due to the falling glass and pieces of plywood.

City officials had been working through the local court system to get Williams to make repairs, and fines have been levied. The city obtained a warrant in order to board up the windows.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said they the city wants ownership of it to then go through it and make decisions about what to do with it long term.

He said it’s been a long time since anyone with the city has been inside the structure.

City officials have a list of 95 properties proposed for the city to purchase through the upcoming delinquent tax auction through the Vermilion County trustee.

Members of the city council’s Public Services Committee tonight will consider authorizing the purchase and cost which would be $60,705 or $639 per property for the purchase price and recording fee.

The city purchased 25 properties last year and in a past year about 65.

“We always get the ones with structures,” said Danville Public Works Director Doug Ahrens about the general guidelines city officials look at to demolish blighted properties.

Some also can be vacant lots where the city could have a purpose for, such as an addition to a park property.

This gets the properties into the city’s hands by the city purchasing more and more properties at the Vermilion County Trustee tax auctions in recent years.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said it becomes important to stop the cycle of people not paying taxes for three years on structures, having them go on the county delinquent tax auction lists, people buying up properties at the tax auctions who have just a little money to tinker with them but not significantly improve them, and the properties then sit there with taxes not being paid again.

He said the $639 for each property purchase and tax auction fees are cheaper than court costs to get title, and sometimes there can be a long process of finding property owners.

It is much cheaper for the city to buy the properties now compared to the money the city would spend going the legal or acquisition route to purchase them from property owners. Most are demolition candidates, and any that can be rehabbed will be donated to the land bank, according to Eisenhauer.

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