Anamosa business owner wants help with crumbling building

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ANAMOSA, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Portions of a nearly 150-year-old building in the historic downtown part of Anamosa are crumbling. And one bar owner who owns the lower half of the two-story building says she’s been spending her own money for years to fix parts of the building actually owned by someone else.

Cassy Wescott looks at the trash in an abandoned apartment above her bar in downtown Anamosa on Monday, March 20, 2017. She says a different owner abandoned the property years ago and she's had to spend her own money to making exterior repairs for safety. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)

Cassy Wescott owns the ground-floor Hot Shots Bar on Anamosa’s Main Street. She says the problem is literally right above her head.

Over the years, some of the outside brick from the upper portion of the building has pulled away due to weather damage and neglect and fallen onto the street and sidewalk below. Wescott says she doesn’t own the portion of the building causing the problems but she’s had to spend her own money to repair some of the problems.

“I have to secure the safety of my build if the roof is leaking, it’s leaking in the bar and I have to correct that so it doesn’t happen again and it’s been going on for seven years,” she said.

The city of Anamosa says the owner of the upper portion of Wescott’s building, listed as Golden Hammer Trust, walked away about seven years ago abandoning two upstairs apartments, one filled with trash.

Wescott said it was that owner’s responsibility to maintain the upper floor including the roof.

She figures she’s spent about $3,000 of her own money fixing a broken gutter, windows and some loose bricks. And that’s on the portion of the building above her business—a portion she doesn’t own.

A number of years ago, when bricks came tumbling down on the north side of the bar, the side facing main street, the city did step in spending more than $7,700 for tuckpointing to repair the bricks. The city added the amount of repair in a lien on the building never repaid by the owner.

Property taxes, amounting to a little less than $400 a year, haven’t been paid for seven years either.

Alan Johnson, city administrator for Anamosa, says the city hasn’t been able to locate the owner of the upper portion of the building for years. Wescott approached the city council in February asking them to consider declaring that part of the building a nuisance or a safety hazard.

She said that would allow the city to step in and take control and make repairs.

But Johnson said city officials are reluctant to take responsibility due to unknown costs and liability issues and, for the moment, are simply weighing the alternatives.

“Those options could have a wide range from acquiring the building to demolishing the upper story to demolishing the whole building. Or we could do as much as we can to encourage somebody to come in and take it over,” he said.

Johnson said the city might be agreeable to waiving the lien for brick repair if someone would come in and promise to make repairs. The upper part of the building could be purchased for back taxes, probably about $2,800.

Johnson said the city is currently talking to one potentially-interested buyer who is investigating a possible purchase. But so far, no takers.