Garage at vacant city house razed

A contractor uses an excavator Friday morning to tear down a dilapidated garage behind 134 Bishop St. in Watertown. The house, owned by Joseph T. Cabell of San Antonio, Texas has been abandoned for years. The city has been unable to reach the owner, so recently boarded up the broken windows and ordered the garage torn down. Alec Johnson/ Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — An excavator made swift work of a crumbling garage behind 134 Bishop St. Friday morning. The city, after numerous attempts to reach the owner of the abandoned single-family home on an otherwise well-kept street, had the teetering structure razed due to safety concerns.

The crunching of rafters could be heard throughout the neighborhood, as the excavator claw splintered the aged wood. But before the building could be torn down, a tree limb that had fallen and crushed part of the roof had to be removed.

Joseph T. Cabell of San Antonio, Texas owns the brown-shingled house that was last rented in 2017.

The city will charge Mr. Cabell the expense of tearing the garage down. The city hired Independent Commercial Contractors Inc., Watertown, to complete the demolition.

The property owner will be charged $6,500, plus the tipping fee and surcharges, said Dana Aikins, the city’s code enforcement supervisor. The garage faced the wrecking ball because a tree fell on it and city officials were worried that it would fall down on its own.

While it was planned for an all-day job, Mr. Aikins said late Friday morning that the work would be finished well before the end of the day.

He has not responded to city requests, and because the taxes are paid there has not been much the city has been able to do to eliminate the eyesore, other than mow the tall grass and board up windows.

The city has sent numerous letters to the owner and has received no response.

The 2021 city tax bill was $2,376, an increase of nearly $900 over 2020.

City Assessor Brian S. Phelps also checked to see if any legal action has been filed on the property but did not find any record of that happening. However, the taxes are being paid through a bank that holds the mortgage.

USAA Federal Savings Bank issued two mortgages in July 2006 totaling $172,500. City records, and a deed filed with the Jefferson County Clerk, list the sale price as $172,500. That sale was the fourth time the home has changed hands since 2002. City records show the home sold in March 2002 for $61,800. It was sold in October 2004 for $131,500 then again in June 2005 for $161,000 and finally to Mr. Cabell in 2006.

The city lists Mr. Cabell’s home address in San Antonio. A search of property records in that city shows Mr. Cabell owns two properties there, one assessed at $520,030 and another assessed at $187,650. Taxes are current on both properties.

Over the years, the property has been a problem for neighbors, and city officials have described it as the worst house in what is otherwise a pleasant residential street.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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