Hancock discusses property changes

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette The Hancock City Council approved purchasing the former Neil’s Taxi location and clearing it to create more off-street parking spots at their regular May meeting.

The Hancock City Council took the first steps toward purchasing the former Neil’s Taxi lot and clearing it for more overnight winter parking at Wednesday’s regular meeting.

According to Hancock city manager Barry Givens, the parcel, at 201 East Franklin St., was one of three properties inside the city that were foreclosed on because of unpaid taxes.

“I’m sure you are very familiar with that site, it needs to be cleaned up,” Givens told the council.

Turning the lot into overnight winter parking would add six to eight more spots to the 50 the city currently has.

“We’re maxed out on our public lots, this would add some additional spaces,” Givens said.

The city disallows on-street parking from Nov. 1 through April 30 between 2:30 and 7 a.m. for plowing. They sell off-street public parking permits for $120 for each six-month winter period but, according to city clerk Mary Babcock, those permits sell out fast.

Givens said that clearing the lot would also remove the blight of the cars, unused building and other things currently occupying the lot.

Givens said the city can currently buy any of the three parcels for the amount of the overdue taxes, just over $4,400 for the Neil’s Taxi property. If the state, city and county turn down the properties, they go to public auction.

“I’ve already talked to a towing company that said they’d basically take the vehicles out for free,” Givens said.

The building would be offered to anyone willing to move it off the lot, and there would be some work to clean up the other brush and garbage on the lot. Givens said that could be done by the city’s Department of Public Works, or the landlord for the building next door has said she might be able to organize a volunteer work crew.

Givens thinks the city can avoid having to buy any new pavement or concrete for the lot and use it after the cleanup the way it is.

The city has until July 1 to make a decision on each of the three properties within its limits. Councilman Ron Blau made the motion to move on the Neil’s Taxi property as soon as possible.

Councilman Paul LaBine seconded the motion, saying it was better for the municipality to clean up and use the lot than for a private party to try doing it.

“I agree completely with Ron and Paul,” Mayor John Haeussler said. “There’s no sense in waiting. This is a property that’s advantageous to us to take and (the) city manager laid out a great plan for how we want to utilize it. The cost is very reasonable and we will more than recoup that in the long term by having it.”

LaBine asked about any environmental cleanup concerns on the property.

“I will be sure to check that out before we do anything on it,” Givens said.

Cleanups can be costly, but might also be eligible for payment through a grant or loan from the Houghton County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

The timeline on the cleanup and conversion to parking spaces is a matter of weeks.

The motion to buy the lot passed with unanimous consent from the city council.

Haeussler pointed out that the other two lots, at 410 Mine St. and

1105 Minnesota St., could still be decided on at the next meeting. He said that the city is not allowed to buy the property to sell it at a profit, but they could purchase it and resell it at cost to another interested municipal partner, Finlandia University for instance.