After Winslow City Council met in a few executive sessions to discuss the clean-up and purchase of the Rasco Building adjacent to Standing on the Corner Park, they announced last week what could be a complication to progress on the buildings clean-up and potential development.
After the RASCO building burnt down in October 2004, it has since remained in its damaged condition and has been fenced off for almost two years due to safety issues regarding the unstable brick walls. According to the building owners, Jim Steagall and Kate Whitty, their insurance company and the roofing company's insurance provider obstructed any progress on a clean up.
Jim Steagall said that his contractor's employees left a lit torch on fresh tar during the roofing job that caused the fire.
After the fire, the building owners also claimed that former City Administrator John Roche ordered the fencing off of the property to obstruct any progress despite Steagall and Whitty's staunch opposition to the Downtown Renaissance redevelopment projects. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality caught wind of possible asbestos in the Rasco and made sure the building remained quarantined.
One thing is for sure ‹ Winslow businesses, leaders and residents want the Rasco building cleaned up and rebuilt as soon as possible to renew the progress of downtown and Winslow as a whole.
ADEQ gave the city of Winslow over $96,000 for the clean up of the building and Council made an offer to purchase the remains of the Rasco that sits on five lots in the heart of Winslow. Typical with most property sales, the owners of the Rasco were given 20 days to respond to the city's offer by either denying it or by sending a counter offer.
"The city obtained an appraisal done by a certified business appraiser and that was forwarded to the owners of the Rasco along with an offer by the city to purchase the building at the appraised price," said City Attorney Dale Patton. "I spoke with the attorney for the owners and the attorney indicated that the owners were not willing to sell the property at that appraised price."
After consulting with the city administrator and city council, Patton drafted a letter on behalf of the city to another attorney for the city who specializes in eminent domain issues.
"I asked him to begin the process of filing a condemnation action," Patton said. "But we also asked the attorney to continue to negotiate with the owners of the Rasco in hopes of avoiding litigation, but it may not be possible."
Patton said that the city is already pursuing the issue and has the litigation report with the names of all involved parties and that the attorneys have been retained.
"We will be proceeding with that," Patton said.
Mayor Allan Affeldt interjected, "So it is clear, the city of Winslow adopted as a real estate policy that when we purchase property, we will do it on a basis of an appraisal."
Affeldt said the city paid for the fair market appraisal and that it took a considerable amount of time. He said the Rasco owners were given 20 days to respond to the city's offer, but that they did not hear anything from them.
"So at this point there is nothing more for us to do but to proceed with a condemnation and hope that they become more responsive before we have to litigate," Affeldt said.
He added that condemning the property and taking it from the owners would be the worst case scenario, but if there is no other alternative for cleaning up the park area, then Council is decided to move in that direction.
"Maybe community members would like to speak with the owners about this to get this going forward because this is an important property," Affeldt said. "It is their property, but it is also the centerpiece of downtown Winslow. Hopefully, we can look at what is good for the community as well as what is good for our pocketbooks."
As of press time, the Mail was unable to make contact with the owners of the Rasco.