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Demolition assesment adds final chapter to Opera House saga
Larned Opera House lot pic
This photo of the final phase of the Larned Opera House demolition shows a portion of the front facade considered as the most stable section of the building, as well as basement excavations in the southern half of the project. Assessment to property owners was tabled at last Monday's meeting of the Larned City Council to July. tp ensure an equitable cost settlement among all stakeholders of the project. - photo by Michael Gilmore

LARNED — The contention-filled saga of the Larned Opera House is not yet complete. Even as the empty vacant lots that supported the 135-year old three-story structure becomes covered in vegetation, a final chapter is being written.

At its Monday meeting, the Larned City Council’s intention to close the book on the project hit a roadblock during discussion of allocation of demolition costs to property owners.

While the total cost of $163,471 to raze the five portions of the Opera House and the city-owned Carson Hotel was never in question, the way in which the portions were divvied up met with immediate opposition from the audience at the meeting.

City Manager Brad Eilts, in presenting the assessment allocation to the council, explained that staff had used a first-floor footprint to figure the percentage base for each portion. This resulted in an unequal distribution among the addresses, with 410 Broadway being assessed a 22.15% share for $36,205.34, while the city’s share was figured as 12.57% for $20,543.93. The remainder was distributed evenly among the remaining four addresses.

The total cost consists of fees from remediation contractors for $4,640; engineering consultants for $2,160 and Eakin Enterprises Inc.’s demolition bid of $156,671.

Heather Helvie, whose law office is located adjacent to the demolition at 412 Broadway, questioned the method used to determine the cost split.

“There are any number of ways that you all can assess this dollar amount over the properties that were involved,” she said. “You’ve chosen to take the square footage.

 I question that because those numbers don’t match up with the county appraisal first-floor footprint numbers. You are off by about 250 square feet.

Helvie also noted that the buildings had second and third floors and some had basements, while others had crawl spaces. According to county appraiser footprints, the foundation footage was not equal.

Helvie suggested tabling action on the assessment until a more equitable method could be found.

“Maybe a couple of people could meet with the property owners toward reaching a mutual agreement, so that there are no ugly legal battles in the future between property owners and the city,” she said. “I can count on one hand the people who are going to be affected by this assessment, so let’s sit down and meet with them.”

Ensuing discussion involved Chad Eakin, whose company performed the demolition, and Carlton Burt, whose business owns one of the lots as well as another property in the 400 block of Broadway, which he is now renovating.

Councilmembers Jason Murray and Kim Barnes agreed that the assessment should be re-evaluated for discussion at the July 5 meeting.

Council consensus was to have all stakeholders present then to revisit the assessment procedure.