The Neosho City Council on Tuesday gave the city the nod to move forward with inspections leading up to the demolition of the Combs House.

The Neosho City Council on Tuesday gave the city the nod to move forward with inspections leading up to the demolition of the Combs House.

The house, purchased by the city in February 1999 for $118,000 from Bud Combs, is located at 521 N. Wood Street, in Morse Park.

The two-story house, built in 1890, has fallen into disrepair, and city manager Troy Royer said most of the home's pieces of value have been looted.

"We've had a couple people that were interested but didn't say for sure that they were willing to purchase this and the house is in bad disrepair," Royer said. "We just are left with the choice of surplusing it and trying to sell it, or demolishing it and leaving it as a city park or part of Morse Park there on the north end, or putting something else over there."

Councilman David Ruth, who also served on the council at the time the city purchased the house, said the city acquired the property as part of a buy-out of homes located within the floodplain.

"I can tell you that it was never the intent of the city council at that time, or the city administration, that anyone ever occupy that house because it is in a floodplain," Ruth said.

He said the buy-out was funded by a cooperative agreement involving organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency.

"Part of those agreements, for us to get those multi-million dollars to buy out the floodplain, was that no one could ever be allowed to live back in the floodplain," Ruth said.

Councilman Tom Workman, who was a city public works employee at the time of the purchase, said he could remember the city putting a new roof on the house to protect its interior.

The house now sits with broken out, boarded up windows, and has been barricaded off by fence put up by the city.

Last fall, a fire burned a hole through the second-story floor of the house.

Royer said he has looked into grants to fix the structure, and has met with the historical society and state representatives, though all grant options would leave the city picking up most of the costs.

"Due to the looting of anything of historic value out there it's hard to get any grants that would not leave the majority of the burden of payment on the city," Royer said.

Mayor pro tem Steve Hart noted the house's proximity to the Morse Park walking trail and the nearby park area, and said he is concerned with the safety hazards the rundown structure poses.

"I do buy and sell things and I can tell you this, I wouldn't give you anything for that house because of where it's at and the condition it's in," Hart said. "I make a motion to tear down the house and get rid of it before the city runs into any liability problems with it being there. I'd like to see it done as fast as we could."
Council was given the option of voting to surplus the house and property, or to proceed with the hazardous materials inspection and demolition of the structure, which they agreed to move forward on.

The estimated cost for hazardous materials inspections and the demolition, based on the city's previous demolition projects of the First Baptist Church formerly located on the corner of Jefferson and Main Streets, and the old Frye and Gray building, formerly located at Lafayette and E. Spring St., would come to approximately $7,650, according to information in the council packet. That estimate does not include the price of removing any hazardous materials found during the inspection process.

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For more on Tuesday's city council meeting, see Thursday's edition of the Neosho Daily News.