By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
Missouri’s governor made the trip from Jefferson City to St. Joseph to sign legislation aimed at getting the plywood off vacant buildings and spurring renovation of historic homes and businesses in the city.
The St. Joseph Land Bank is modeled after similar non-profit entities in Kansas City and St. Louis.
State Rep. Shelia Solon of St. Joseph sponsored House Bill 821 and Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer carried it in the Senate.
Both accompanied Gov. Mike Parson recently when he came to St. Joseph to observe flood damage. The two pulled the governor aside and made a pitch: why not come to St. Joseph to sign HB 821 into law.
Parson says the two, “started telling me how important this bill was to St. Joe and to the people and what it was going to do and, as Tony said, more tools for the tool box to make the town better.”
They kept at it, adding, “’We really want you to come up here and we really want you to sign this.’ And I said, okay, okay, I got it. I said let’s let the water go down a little bit and I’ll come back.”
Parson jokes that it’s good to come to St. Joseph for something other than to observe flooded northwest Missouri. He says the state remains concerned about the flood, but hopeful now that floodwaters are receding.
HB 821 creates the St. Joseph Land Bank. The Land Bank can buy abandoned property and re-sale the property to individuals or groups which promise to renovate them. If a buyer cannot be found, the property can be put to public use.
St. Joseph has 4,891 vacant or abandoned buildings. Owners cannot be located for 478 of them. The city spends $300,000 annually in upkeep of vacant homes and businesses.
Parson praises St. Joseph area legislators who pushed for the bill aimed at resurrecting some of the old, historic buildings which have fallen into disrepair.
“Really to get this bill done this year with so many other moving parts that were happening, it’s pretty remarkable, I’ll just tell you that,” Parson says. “And you don’t get that done if you don’t have good leadership.”
Creation of a local land bank was a top priority of St. Joseph city government. Several city councilmembers and county officials attended the bill signing ceremony held in the city council chambers at city hall.
“My first session, to be able to work with the legislators, both in the House and the Senate, to accomplish real meaningful things and today we’re going to get the opportunity to sign something that’s going to be very beneficial to your community and hopefully in the near future you’re going to see lots of positive changes because of this and hopefully you ask me back someday when we (will) see some of these accomplishments are made.”