City to accept ownership of Pizza Ranch building

The Jefferson city council voted unanimously to accept the gift of 206 N. Wilson, the former Pizza Ranch, from owner Rob Schultz. The restaurant has been closed since it was severely damaged by a fire Jan. 27, 2016. Schultz was charged with arson two months later and entered an Alford plea to a reduced charge in December.

The only clean-up or repair done to the building since the fire was to patch a hole firefighters made in the roof as they battled the blaze. City building inspector Nick Sorensen told the council clean-up will cost an estimated $80-$90,000. Some structural repair is also needed.

Sorensen said the city could try to enforce a nuisance abatement against the property, but the city would end up paying for the abatement. He said the building would deteriorate until the city could take it for unpaid taxes in three years. ”Either way we’re going to end up doing it, and I’d rather do it now,” he said.

Sorensen said there is interest in purchasing the building, but it has a negative value in its current condition. Prior to the fire, the assessor valued the land at $11,800 and the building at $122,300. As of Jan. 1, 2017, the land is valued at $9,400 and the building is valued at $0.

The goal is to rehabilitate the building and then sell it, recouping the cost. City administrator Mike Palmer told the county supervisors at his monthly update Monday the city hopes Pizza Ranch will return with another franchise owner.

Council member Gary Von Ahsen said that because there’s interest in the building, he sees owning it as an opportunity. “This isn’t something we anticipated tackling, but I think for the good of the community, the people in Jefferson and the surrounding, we need to do it.”

The city budget for the new fiscal year includes $150,000 for the redevelopment of downtown buildings.

City attorney Bob Schwarzkopf explained after the meeting that the holder of the mortgage on the building was named on the insurance policy, so the insurer covered the bank’s loss on the building. However, because of the criminal nature of the fire, Schultz was unable to file a claim for damages caused by the fire.

The building is the fourth downtown building the city has taken ownership of for the purpose of rehabilitation and resale. The council last month approved a purchase agreement to sell one of those buildings, formerly Linda’s Fashions at 111 W. Lincoln Way. Rehabilitation of 205 N. Wilson and 200 E. State St is under way.

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