You Paid For It: Intersection of Westwood and Oak Grove
Poplar Bluff, Mo. – In 2012, the City of Poplar Bluff began buying properties at the intersection of Oak Grove Road and Westwood Blvd. As reported by Brian Becker at that time, properties at or around that intersection were going for a premium (see map): #1. $828,000; #2. $789,000; and, #3. $1,000,000.
Then the purchasing frenzy came to an abrupt halt when former City Manager Doug Bagby offered only $411,000 to Robert and Robin Whelan for their property (#4). Whelans’ property is the second largest property of the four and roughly the same size as the property which sold for $789,000.
When the Whelans countered the city’s offer with $900,000, the Bagby cut off negotiations and filed a petition with the courts to take the property by eminent domain.
In May, City Manager Bagby was fired and the City Attorney followed him out the door. After two years, the city finally came to the negotiating table this week and settled (see SEMO TIMES story dated 8/5 online at semo.net). As SEMO TIMES went to press, all parties remained tight-lipped about the settlement amount. A year ago the property appraised at $800,000. In the past, Whelan has requested to be compensated for moving expenses and court costs. In his legal briefs, Whelan estimated his moving expenses at $40,000. Also, a two-year battle of attorney’s fees could easily be $20k.
With Whelan publicly stating he is pleased with the settled upon price, one would have to think he received at least $850,000.
SEMO TIMES asked Robert Whelan this week if, back in 2012, the city had offered him the same $789,000 his neighbor’s property brought, would he have accepted it. He answered, “Yes, I believe that I would have.” That being the case, the city lost at least $60,000 by delaying this transaction two years.
According to city hall, $10,237 has been expended in legal and other fees on the Whelan case.
And finally, on July 7, City Council was faced with a requested construction change order of $344,000 because the construction bids on the project were over two years old and out of date.
A representative of Smith & Co. Engineering appeared before council and was asked by Mayor Pearson “Why are we, all of a sudden, needing this?” Smith & Co. responded “Well, there was a two year delay.”
During the discussion, Councilman Brannum surmised that had the city bought the Whelan property in 2012 these costs would not have been incurred.
This week, Mayor Angela Pearson expressed displeasure with the way the Oak Grove project was handled by former City Manager Doug Bagby and the previous city council. Pearson said “I feel that a change order of [$344,000] for the project is, in itself, embarrassing…”
Totaling it up, the City is now paying Whelan approximately $60,000 more than they could have settled for in 2012; plus $10,000 in legal fees; and $344,000 in increased construction costs. That’s more than $400,000 wasted because of the two-year delay.
And you paid for it.