New lease on life

A Vermillion house that once was a crown jewel in its neighborhood, but whose recent history has been rather unsavory, has been given a new lease on life, thanks, in part, to the city's willingness to forgive thousands of dollars of fees assessed against the property and its owner, Troy Boysen.

Boysen purchased the formerly grand home, located at 104 N. University Street, in 2004 with the intent to restore it to its original glory.

He was only able to accomplish a few minor improvements and in recent years, it appears that no attempts to further rehabilitate the house have been made.

The lag of progress triggered the assessment of a daily fee against the property.

Boysen and the city of Vermillion agreed on Nov. 1, 2004, that he would work on meeting certain safety and code requirements, including the installation of stairs, the completion of roof repairs, the painting of the house, proper support for front columns located on the front of the home, and several other items.

Today, besides a coat of paint that was applied several years ago, the removal of a fragile porch railing, and installation of what appears to be two wooden poles to support a part of the structure's roof, little else has been accomplished over the years.

Each October for the last four years, the city has levied special assessment for unpaid invoices against the property, and Boysen has not paid the assessments or property taxes for several years. That had prompted Clay County to start the process to acquire ownership of the property which would result in an auction for the unpaid taxes.

That process, however, was expected to take eight or nine months to complete.

The agreement between Boysen and the city states that failure on his part to comply with the required safety requirements would begin a fine of $50 for each day the building has been in violation. That fee has been accumulating since 1996, and as of Aug. 2, there was $71,500 excluding interest that has been levied against the property, and another $21,500 of outstanding receivables that would be levied against the property this October.

That daily fine has added up over the years. As of early August, Boysen owed the city $93,530 in compensatory special assessments stemming from costs accrued to the city for performing property maintenance, such as mowing and snow removal, and the daily special assessment fee that was part of the agreement.

Buyer found
The home's future appears to be brighter as Boysen has agreed to sell the house to Martin Gilbertson of Vermillion.

That transaction could not occur, however, with such a large assessment against the property.

"Of those $93,000 in special assessments, the proposal that the staff has worked out, with some council feedback, was that all of that, with the exception of $10,000 would be forgiven," City Manager John Prescott said at the Aug. 2 meeting of the Vermillion City Council. "That would allow the city to cover its costs for the contractors that were hired to remove the snow, and cut the grass and weeds, as well as a portion of that $50 daily penalty."

Boysen's attorney, Craig Kennedy, of Yankton, requested that the city forgive more of the assessments so that Boysen would only have to pay

"In talking with Mr. Boysen, he understands that he has made serious errors concerning this property over the years," Kennedy told the city council. "Mr. Boysen had an idea that he could do something to preserve and restore an historic structure in the city of Vermillion … unfortunately, he didn't have the skill or the financing to carry out everything that he wanted to do, and as a result, despite his efforts, he simply couldn't get the job done."

Kennedy told the aldermen that Gilbertson is willing to pay Boysen $45,000 for the house. Approximately six years ago, Boysen bought the property, he added, for $86,000.

"And since the time he bought it, he has put quite a bit of money into the property," Kennedy said, noting that improvements to the roof and siding, and painting was accomplished.

"Mr. Boysen has placed a substantial amount of money into this property that he will never recover, and he understands that, and he doesn't blame anybody for that but himself," Kennedy said.

The attorney noted that Boysen is married, the father of two young children, and now lives in Viborg.

"He would like to get something back out of this property," Kennedy said, "that he can use to start anew, and support his family. He understands that the city has had expenses because of his actions and his inactions."

Boysen's attorney noted that he wasn't requesting a complete abatement of the assessments.

"Mr. Boysen is proposing that the assessments be abated back to $5,000, which is over 10 percent of what he is going to get from the sale of the house. It's a penalty. It will hurt Mr. Boysen. Yet he believes and I believe that it ($5,000) is a fair penalty under the circumstances."

Aldermen decided to not honor Boysen's request, and rather agreed to approve a resolution that calls for forgiving all but $10,000 of the assessments that have accrued on the property.

"I think it's a very fair reduction, and yet it sends a message to the community that when we sit down and make a commitment and work with people, we expect results," Alderman Howard Willson said, "and if we make a commitment to resolve a situation and put a penalty on it, that we follow through with some form of that penalty.

"Otherwise, we're not going to ever have any teeth in any resolution that we put together," he said.

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