West Allis seeks healthy parking alternative

House, if purchased, could be demolished for more lot spaces

July 10, 2012

West Allis - With some misgivings about cost and potential surprises, West Allis will look into buying a run-down home to demolish and expand the parking lot for the Health Department.

The home at 7106 W. National Ave. is for sale, with an asking price of $29,900. If the home is removed, the site could yield 10 new spaces in addition to the existing 19 at the department building, 7120 W. National Ave.

The total cost? Roughly $80,000 to $95,000, City Administrator Paul Ziehler said.

Needed, but too costly?

The Health Department has needed extra parking for some time, Ziehler noted.

Alderman Vince Vitale confirmed that, saying the residential street that catches the overflow parking is choked with cars. He even blamed the congestion for at least one accident.

"This is a great opportunity," said Alderwoman Rosalie Reinke, if somewhat costly.

But Alderman Marty Weigel was not persuaded.

"We spend nearly $100,000 and gain 10 parking spaces?" Weigel said.

He suggested a better approach would be for the city to rent 10 spaces at a nearby parking lot for $5,000 a year.

Furthermore, the bank that now owns the house in foreclosure could sell it to somebody to fix up, thus keeping it on the tax rolls, Weigel said.

Complicating factors

City attorney Scott Post added that if West Allis tried to acquire the property through eminent domain, the city would not get away with a $29,900 purchase price. The bank would throw the home's $86,000 assessment at the city and along with other costs, the tab for the house could be close to $100,000.

But the bank might be more interested in getting rid of the house for the asking price than going through eminent domain, Post said.

"We have nothing to lose" by looking into the possibility, said Alderman James Sengstock, noting that the city routinely tries to buy blighted properties.

As the city explores the sale further, it hopes to identify any potential cost-driving surprises, such as the possibility of a buried underground oil tank.

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