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Duncan Heights

Hancock County is trying to sell Duncan Heights Residential Care Center, a former home for people with mental disabilities. The last of the center's approximately 40 residents moved out in September 2016.

DUNCAN | The former Duncan Heights Residential Care Center is “quite a mess” and unsafe for potential buyers to view without protection, county officials say.

On Monday, Sept. 10, Kevin Hoeft, county maintenance supervisor, told the Hancock County Board of Supervisors the shuttered facility at 465 Highway 18 is filled with floor-to-ceiling mold accompanied by an unbearable smell.

“I don’t think it’s fit for someone to even go in there and look at it myself,” he said.

Hoeft said the sheriff’s office that had been using the facility to train with area law enforcement recently discontinued its use because of health concerns.

“I mean you can’t even stand that place,” he said. “I went in about 15 feet, turned around and came back. It’s pretty bad.”

Former Duncan Heights property remains on the market in Hancock County

County Attorney Blake Norman advised the board to restrict access to the buildings, even potential buyers, unless they’re wearing appropriate attire, like masks, and have signed a waiver to protect the county from a lawsuit.

The 10.24-acre property, featuring a three-bedroom house built in 1984 and the 21,000-square-foot 20-unit, one-story building that once housed the facility’s clients, has been on the market for $250,000 since 2016 with two different real estate agents with little to no success.

Last winter, the county shut off the utilities to the vacant facility, which were costing about $5,500 a month, and this spring, the supervisors declined to repair the leaking roof at the property.

In August, the supervisors unanimously voted to extend the county’s contract with Dorian Goll, owner and broker of Triad Realty of Clear Lake, to list the property for an additional three months after he said “there’s been activity” on the listing, vaguely referencing two separated interested parties.

Goll was hired in August 2017 after Schoneman Realtors failed to sell the property during a 12-month period.

Hancock County lists former Duncan Heights property for possibly last time

But given the one-story building’s deterioration, the county board may be considering an alternative to selling the property as is.

“I guess the real question I got, you know, is without something coming forward fairly quick, what do we want to do with that property?” said Jerry Tlach, county supervisor and board chair. “Do we want to just put the house up for bids and have the house moved off? Do we want to section that off as an acreage and then just clean the rest up? That’s the decision we’ve got to make.”

That has been a discussion the supervisors have entertained in recent months but not acted on.

The former home for people with mental disabilities has been for sale since September 2016, which is when the last of its approximately 40 residents moved out in accordance with a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community.

Since the property has been on the market, the supervisors have received one formal offer that was made public.

That offer came from Brent and Teresa Powers for $110,000, and it was declined by the board after a closed session on July 17, 2017, because of stipulations the couple made in connection with the sale.

Hancock County Board postpones Duncan Heights building roof repair

Supervisor Ron Sweers said he thought the county should sell the house off the site and “bury everything else.”

A Clear Lake man, who was sitting in the audience, told the supervisors he had looked at the property over the weekend and was considering submitting an offer if he received approval from his bank.

Tlach said if the county doesn’t receive an offer within the next 10 days, it’d place the item on an upcoming agenda to decide the property’s fate.

“We need to do something with this property,” he said.

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.



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