East Dubuque acquires, looks to sell 2 downtown properties

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — East Dubuque officials are looking to sell two properties they recently acquired through condemnation.

City Council members this week voted, 5-0, to direct city staff to adopt paperwork that would declare the properties at 69 Sinsinawa Ave. and at 339-341 Sinsinawa Ave. as surplus property, which would allow the properties to be put up for sale.

The meeting was the first since the death of Council Member Marty Werner, 74, on April 1. There was a moment of silence in his memory.

Mayor Kirk VanOstrand said he intends to appoint someone to fill Werner’s Ward 3 seat within the next 60 days.

Regarding the condemnations, City Manager Loras Herrig said the city took possession of the properties in the last month, concluding a process that began in 2019. The city condemned the properties after it was determined that they were in deteriorating condition and were not being developed or maintained by the owners. The property at 69 Sinsinawa Ave. has a caved-in roof.

“The city did not condemn the properties to make money,” Herrig said. “We want to make them productive, tax-paying properties, which they simply weren’t doing under previous ownership.”

Herrig explained that the city was able to obtain the two at no cost due to the former owner of both properties, Jim Runde, having about $70,000 in unpaid utility bills for them. The city agreed to cancel that debt in exchange for the properties.

“He had so much in unpaid utility bills that it exceeded the value of both of the properties,” Herrig said.

The city had to pay legal fees, closing costs and other expenses to acquire the properties. Herrig said on Monday that he was unable to determine the total of those costs in time for this story’s publication.

The city likely will begin accepting bids on the properties in May, following City Council approving them as surplus properties, Herrig said.

VanOstrand said the duplex building at 339-341 Sinsinawa could be renovated to create additional housing downtown, but the property at 69 Sinsinawa is in such poor condition that demolition appears to be the only option.

“There’s no saving that building, so it just needs to be torn down,” VanOstrand said. “At this point, I would be OK with it as a parking lot or empty.”

VanOstrand added that the city is not finished with condemning downtown properties. Next, he said, the city likely will pursue acquiring the brick building at 11 and 13 Sinsinawa Ave., which was built in 1900 and sits next to Lu Lu’s Seldom Scene saloon.

“We’re trying to deal with these buildings that have been sitting empty for quite some time,” VanOstrand said. “That next building we’re looking at actually has a lot of potential if the right person would get in there.”