It was a soggy Thursday morning and Austin LaViolette, Great Bend property maintenance enforcement manager, was heading out to mow the overgrown grass and weeds at the dilapidated former Highland Hotel. This wasn’t the first time he or city crews have had to maintain the property at 3017 10th St.
In fact, the property is among the Great Bend properties to be abated by the City Council Monday night for accumulation of trash and refuse. Last known as the Great Bend Hotel and Convention Center, the once local landmark located at 3017 10th St. has fallen into disrepair.
“We’ve been mowing it,” he said. “Someone has been cleaning stuff out,” but this could be the owners or it could be looters, he didn’t know.
There are broken windows, weeds have been allowed to grow and other maintenance has not been done, City Sanitarian Austin LaViolette said. Even after city personnel have fought back the vegetation, it is still an eyesore.
A stack of old televisions on the east side is the key item causing the request to abate Monday, he said.
This marks the second time the property has made the abatement list. It was also abated in the summer of 2018.
There are other problems: The swimming pool has been full of standing, stagnant water; many windows have been broken out; items have been stripped from inside the rooms and outside walls; and there have been homeless people squatting in some of the rooms.
The Police Department have run routine checks of the building to help curtail illegal activities, Police Chief David Bailey said.
The abatement is another step toward making something happen with the property. The city inspector and code enforcement officer continue to monitor it as well.
If a structure is determined to be unsafe and dangerous, notices must be sent, a waiting period followed and a public hearing held before the city can proceed. However, should it be ruled unsafe, it could be the city that winds up having to have it torn down, city officials said.
Those expenses would be charged to the owner, but may never be paid.
The owners of record are Springfield, Mo.-based Retreat at Great Bend LLC. and Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada-based Bar-None Construction. Both are listed on the on the abatement request.
The owners have maintained they still plan to develop the property into a time-share resort.
The Highland Manor opened in 1964. The addition of the convention center and office complex came in the 1980s.
However, it changed hands several times over the years. The Highland became the Holiday Inn, the Parkside Hotel and finally the Great Bend Hotel and Convention Center which closed four years ago.
In June 2011, the City Council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center separately from the hotel. This portion has been remodeled and developed into the city’s Events Center.
It was set to be auctioned off during the Barton County tax sale last October, but the owners came in just under the wire and paid over $143,000.
The property has an appraised value of the property is $548,060, $521,900 for the land and $26,160 for the building, according to the Treasurer’s Office.
What is an abatement?
An abatement notice is served on the owner or occupier of a property on which there has been a complaint, warning of the city’s intention to enter the land in order to abate (or eliminate) the nuisance by city crews. The cost of this is assessed to the owner.
The Great Bend City Council recently approved some changes to streamline this process.
According to the city’s website, here is how violations are handled:
Overgrown vegetation in the city limits is a violation of city Ordinance 15.70.
• The owner and/or resident of the property is notified and told that if the violation is not corrected the property may be abated. City Council approval for this action is not necessary. A violation is considered if vegetation at or above nine inches tall.
• Property owners will only receive one such letter per calender year.
If the property is in violation:
• The property owner will be sent a notice to abate by certified mail allowing 10 calendar days after receipt of the letter is confirmed to correct it. If not corrected, the city will mow the property at the owner’s expense.
• Photos will be taken before and after the abatement.
• Owners will be sent a bill for the abatement costs payable within 30 days, after which it will be assessed to the property taxes.
Trash and refuse
The accumulation of trash and refuse on a property is in violation of Ordinance 8.08.
• Everything is automatically makes for the council agenda. If the owner does not have the violation taken care of by the council meeting date, it will vote to abate.
The following items are considered trash and refuse:
• Household trash
• Automobile parts (including tires)
• Construction debris
• Tree debris and other yard waste
• Any debris that is capable of being a place for vermin to live and breed
• Scrap metal
If a property is found to be in violation, the owner will be notified verbally or in writing what the violation consists of, what has to be done to correct it, and the time frame the owner has to correct it.
If no movement has been done by the deadline, a notice to abate the property will be sent to the owner containing the date the violation will be discussed by the council.