Unpaid building demolition fees cost local taxpayers $1 million

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by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 11:09 PM

(KMOV) -- St. Louis city is full of vacant buildings, some of them so hazardous they must be torn down.

The owners of the dilapidated buildings are supposed to pay for the demolition. But all too often the taxpayers pay the bill for someone else’s negligence.
 
Those unpaid bills have cost the city more than $1 million since 2010.
 
Frank Oswald of the St. Louis Building Department says there are around 1,500 condemned buildings in the city at any time.
 
“We try to prioritize the most dangerous buildings” said Oswald.
 
For the next fiscal year, St. Louis has budgeted $1.5 million to tear down 200 to 300 buildings.
 
Some owners simply don't pay, so the city attaches a lien to the property and sometimes  those owners don't care.
 
City Attorney Matt Moak says blighted lots are sold on the courthouse step but the process can take up to two years.
 
“Our realization rate is not high but our hope is that we shorten the time between when we demolish and building and when we take control of it or someone else from the public can purchase it to get something going on that lot the goal being to get a tax producing entity on that lot” said Moak.
 
That next auction takes place in October.
 
Some of the top offenders are prominent people. According to city records, the Roberts Brothers owe more than $28,000.
 
When a News 4 producer called the company for a comment he was hung up on.
 
Then there's the owner of the former Powell Square building next to the Poplar Street Bridge. According to the city, SCM-PBM LLC, run by Stephen Murphy, hasn't paid the at least $306,944 demolition cost for the prominent eyesore.
 
Records also show Murphy’s LLC owes nearly $22,000 for another one of his eyesores demolished by the city. Murphy did not return our call.
 
That is not the only LLC the city has an issue with. Urban Assets LLC owes more than $56,000 for four properties.
 
According to the city, this has been an ongoing problem for years.
 
Here is a list of those delinquent owners from 2011-2012.
 
In the meantime, if you live next to a vacant eyesore and the property owner isn't taking care of it, let Chris Nagus know by sending him an email.

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