A small weekend fire has again drawn the attention of the City of Neosho to the vacant, city-owned Combs House, located in Morse Park.

A small weekend fire has again drawn the attention of the City of Neosho to the vacant, city-owned Combs House, located in Morse Park.

Mike Eads, Neosho Fire Chief, informed Neosho City Council members on Tuesday that the fire occurred on the second floor of the home, and is suspected to have been an act of vandalism.

Eads said the fire burned a two-foot hole in the floor, resulting in what is now a four-foot hole in the home’s second floor.
“It’s becoming a real safety-hazard for us and we’re going to have to consider doing something with it,” Eads said of the home.

Troy Royer, Neosho City Manager, said the city purchased the home from Bud Combs in the mid-to-late 1990s, with hopes of refurbishing the historic home.

Originally known as the Herman Knotts House, the Queen-Anne style home was built in 1890, Royer said.

Royer said the city purchased the house at the same time that, with FEMA funds, they paid to tear down or relocate several other homes located in that area, due to their location being considered in a floodplain.

“The city originally wanted to try to restore the Combs House,” Royer said. “It had a lot of old wrought iron and Victorian work, but it’s all been looted.”

Royer said the city has considered several options to save the home, including pursuing preservation grants.

“I did have some future plans I would’ve liked to have seen out of it,” Royer said. “I talked with the historical society, trying to look for preservation grants, but unfortunately it’s been robbed of so much stuff that was of historical value that we could no longer deem it historical unless we go back and replace it with handmade, historical stuff.”

Eads said nearly everything of value, including the copper wiring, has also been taken from the home. He also noted that most windows have been broken.

Royer said the city has boarded up the home, as well as placed locks, though it continues to be broken into.
Richard Davidson, Neosho mayor, said the Combs House has not been the only recipient of vandalism in the Morse Park area.
“I think it supports the comments we made in the past of not putting more money into Morse Park in general because of the ongoing vandalism problems we have over there on ball fields and concession stands,” Davidson said.

Royer said he and Eads had also discussed using the home as training ground for the Neosho Fire Department, though Eads said EPA requirements would make that difficult.

“Issues with using that as a training burn is you have to have an asbestos check done,” Eads said. “You have to remove all petroleum products, such as the shingles and the carpeting, by the time you remove everything, there’s nothing left to burn.”

David Ruth, city councilman, said he believes the home’s condition is past the point of repair, noting that the council had originally purchased the home with the intention of saving it.

“Rather than use FEMA funds, which would have required it to be torn down, the city used other funds to buy that with, with the hopes of keeping it and restoring it,” Ruth said.

Royer said the city is now out of options, aside from the donation of private funds, and is currently considering the option of tearing the home down.

Royer said he is currently awaiting a report from the Public Works Department, detailing the costs associated with tearing down the home.

He said a recommendation would be given to the council at one of their next two council meetings.

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To read more on Tuesday’s Neosho City Council meeting, see Thursday’s edition of the Neosho Daily News.