Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BEAT BYTES: Liens, Foreclosures Slam Prominent Developer

News Briefs from The Columbia Heart Beat

1) Liens, Foreclosures Slam Prominent Developer
2) Zany, Wacky, Crazy: Columbia, Missouri, The Musical
3) Accountant Accusations Left on Downtown Cars
4) The Grasslands' Ann Koenig: 2009 Tree Climbing Champion
5) LET'S DO LUNCH: Mugs Up, A Columbia Institution
6) The Most Complete Look Ever at Stan Kroenke's Humongous Empire
7) READERS WRITE: Did Trib play fair with TIF opposition?
8) Commission urges action on water supply safety
9) Councilman Speaks Out on Downtown Cameras
10) Housing News from Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone

1) Liens, Foreclosures Slam Prominent Developer

COLUMBIA, 8/25/09 (Beat Byte)
It's been a tough year for Glen Strothmann, a man people in the know call a "good guy" who's done a lot of "great things" for Columbia.

The prominent realtor and developer -- whose real estate empire stretches across the city -- has lost one of downtown's crown jewels to foreclosure and seen his well-regarded Delta group of development companies hit with liens and lawsuits.

The trouble seems to have kicked off in earnest last October, when Columbia-based A.D. Harris, Inc. filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Delta Roads Development; a sister company, Delta Park Development; Strothmann; and his partner, homebuilder Andy McVey (left). The case dragged on for several months, ultimately resulting in a $10,876.00 judgment and bank account garnishment.

The trouble continued after construction firm Emery Sapp and Sons filed a $47,567.00 lien and subsequent lawsuit against Strothmann, et. al. this month, apparently related to work on property he and partners own along Rock Quarry Road.

Strothmann occupies a uniquely diversified niche among local developers, taking on both new subdivisions and historic preservation.

Larger liens -- around $280,000.00 from contractors working on a major downtown preservation project -- started bedeviling Strothmann's companies last February. The restoration of 904 E. Broadway -- the former Puckett's women's wear store -- was to be both "state of the art" and vintage, "an original structure that dates to the early 1900s" when the building had a mezzanine, balcony and fancy railing, Strothmann told the Columbia Daily Tribune in 2007, shortly after he had purchased the building from serial preservationist John Ott.

But this month, Strothmann and Delta Roads lost the building after defaulting on a $1.3 million loan, along with several parcels at Springdale Estates after defaulting on another $600,000.00 in loans.

2) Zany, Wacky, Crazy: Columbia, Missouri, The Musical

COLUMBIA, 8/25/09 (Beat Byte) -- "Columbia, Missouri -- where everyone's White and Normal. We spend every week-end maintaining our lush front lawns."

What, you say? Who dares be so politically incorrect! It was the hit of a dinner party I attended this weekend, singer-songwriter Frank Reed's zany, catchy, twistedly toe-tapping take on our little burg, the song "Columbia, Missouri" from his 2008 album "I Regret Everything."

(The humorless, smug, pompous, overly-serious, or overly-sensitive should cover their eyes now).

In Columbia, Missouri, "everyone's shirt is tucked in," Reed sings. And
"we all like brave new ideas in the arts --as long as they're not controversial or overly smart."

And sorry, First Ward Councilman and too-successful-for-those-sandals guy Paul Sturtz. According to Reed, who relishes twisting his tongue around the words,

"If we go to the Ragtag, downtown to see a show
Then we can expose our children to left-wing hip-py pro-pa-ganda!"

Imagine an Off-Broadway, full-on musical production designed with actor-singers devilishly delighting in poking fun at a town that -- from bikes v. cars to Hank "The Butterfly" -- often takes itself WAY too seriously and you've got this delightful ditty.

"Columbia, Missouri
Where Wal-Marts Outnumber People.
Col-um-bia, Miss-ouri
Yourrrree Okayyyyy!"

"Columbia, Missouri" is song #3, and if you just click "Listen" it plays with stereophonic quality. You can also download the song for free.

3) Accountant Accusations Left on Downtown Cars

COLUMBIA, 8/25/09 (Beat Byte) -- "Render Unto Caesar that which is Caesars!" proclaims a flyer left on dozens of cars downtown this past weekend.

But it wasn't an add for a Bible School or a pitch for a new religion. The flyer was an accusation against a local accountant, James Berry, CPA, for supposedly embezzling "hundreds of thousands of dollars." Signed "Betsy Murphy" with an email address betsymurphy@rocketmail.com, the flyer says Murphy and her husband -- local small business owners -- entrusted employee tax payments to Berry as part of a payroll service.

But "Berry kept the money for himself," resulting in IRS and State tax actions, including "liens filed against our house," that "have drained our savings," Murphy writes.

A quick Casenet search of both parties turns up two recent judgments and several State of Missouri delinquent tax actions against a "James R. Berry, CPA."

Neither Berry nor Murphy returned calls for comment.

4) The Grasslands' Ann Koenig: 2009 Tree Climbing Champion

COLUMBIA, 8/25/09 (Beat Byte) -- According to the women who know them, the guys who live around Ann Koenig (left) in Columbia's Grasslands neighborhood have a terrible case of chainsaw envy.

Rumor has it that Koenig, 35, has about eight shiny new chain saws, her collected prize-winnings from a brief but high-flying career as one of the world's best tree climbers.

Not only did Koenig -- a Missouri Dept. of Conservation forester -- climb away with the 2009 Midwest Tree Climbing Championship this June, but she was also the second highest placing U.S. finisher at the 2009 International Tree Climbing Championship (ITCC) held July 24 and 25 in Providence, Rhode Island. Koenig placed 8th overall, behind women climbers from New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Started 35 years ago as a fun and competitive way to "preserve the classic skills that would prepare a climber equipped with nothing more than a rope to have the ability to save a life in an aerial rescue," the ITCC tests tree climbers across a number of important categories, from aerial rescue to basic climbing skills. Koenig started climbing competitively in 2005, and now ranks with the best.

She's also a Grant Mom (Grant Elementary School), where just yesterday I heard a Grant Dad openly wondering if he could persuade her to part with one of her championship chainsaws.

5) LET'S DO LUNCH: Mugs Up, A Columbia Institution

Tucked away over on Orange Street just off Business Loop 70 is a tiny reminder of a day long past when A&W dominated the fast food business and "drive in" was all part of America's new-found love for the automobile.

Opened by Raymond Kewley in 1955 and famous for its root beer, the Mugs-Up Drive In may have Columbia's best hamburgers and chili cheese dogs. I had both on a particularly gluttonous recent luncheon, and because I eat faster than Carl Edwards does a back flip, both entrees were gone before my lunch-time buddy -- the amazingly brilliant and deeply compassionate Amir Ziv (paid plug) -- had even slipped the wrapping off his order.

As the city's only non-chain drive-in, Mugs Up is a cute keeper, a great place to take the kids on the way to the pool; pick up a student study snack; or grab dinner on the way home from work. It's open 11 am to 9 pm Monday thru Saturday, but keeps seasonable hours, closed for most of the winter (open mid-February to late-October).


6) The Most Complete Look Ever at Stan Kroenke's Humongous Empire

Click here for the most complete list ever of Columbia developer Stan Kroenke's (left) endless empire.

7) READERS WRITE: Did Trib play fair with TIF opposition?

Mike: In my capacity as President of the Columbia Apartment Association (over 50% of Columbia's residential units are rental and we pay lots of taxes), I held several discussions about TIFs and the board voted unanimously to oppose the two downtown projects recently granted TIFs. I wrote our thoughts and reasons in an email to the Mayor, City Council members and the two papers: the Missourian and the Tribune.

I think it significant that the Missourian published my letter, but the Tribune did not. Why not? Hank? Are you there? Do you shy away from opposing opinions? I didn't think so until this happened.

Anyway, it was just kind of "buried" and the TIFs were rushed through. We felt like their minds were already made up before the public hearing and they simply did not want to hear any opposition. We also go into whether or not these areas are "blighted" and whether or not downtown is losing its economic base. We don't think so.

I enjoy your emails. Lots to think about. And we did feel that there were powerful forces at work behind the scenes. -- Mark Stevenson, Columbia

Columbia Apartment Association opposes TIF funding in city

Mike: Between you and I, as a business and landowner in downtown Columbia, I really don’t know if anyone (Special Business District, CCA, or Downtown Leadership Council) has my back.
I am sure I am overly naïve, but if someone on the board of one of these organizations hears or sees anything about my business or land, I feel that I should be informed immediately with a courtesy email, call or letter.

The only thing I know to do is to systematically visit each board meeting and ask them what allegiance they feel is owed to me as a member (or entity within their respective geographical boundaries). -- Name withheld by request

Mr. Martin: I look forward to each issue
of the Columbia Heart Beat. You prove the importance of free and independent media. And I think you are the best investigative journalist in town. Keep up the good work! -- Mitchell J. Moore, Attorney at Law, Columbia

Hi Mike, Been wanting to thank you for writing the great neighborhood blog. Thanks for the Columbia Heart Beat! -- Mary Lottes, Ashland

8) Commission urges action on water supply safety

Columbia's Environment and Energy Commission sent the following letter to the City Council regarding the wetlands and water supply.

Seventeen years of study indicate that our wetland activities in the McBaine bottoms have fundamentally changed groundwater flow and impacted the quality of our drinking water supply.

Very soon, we will hire a consulting firm to perform an engineering study of our water treatment plant. Prior to drilling new wells, any plant expansion, or change in treatment, it is imperative that we answer some fundamental questions regarding our water supply.

• Should we treat our water to remove any of the unregulated compounds we now find in our water (wastewater tracers, pesticides, drugs, etc.)?
• What levels of these unregulated compounds are acceptable?
• Should we take steps to protect our wells from these contaminants?
• What can be done to minimize the wetlands’ effects on groundwater quality?
• What can be done to minimize the wetlands’ effects on groundwater flow?
• Could conservation measures delay the need for and expense of a plant expansion?

These questions should be addressed and our Source Water Protection Plan should be finalized in an open and public manner so that we as a community can participate in major decisions about our water supply. The Environment and Energy Commission requests to present this topic at a future council work session.

The Environment and Energy Commission recommends that the City Council direct staff to work with the Missouri Department of Conservation to address the questions posed above and to release its assessment at a future Council work session or scheduled evening meeting. It is our hope that Columbians may continue to enjoy the many benefits of the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area and our wastewater treatment wetlands without further compromising our drinking water source.

9) Councilman Speaks Out on Downtown Cameras

The recent attack on Adam Taylor was a terrible crime and I am glad that he has recovered from his injuries. I am also very glad that the surveillance cameras in the parking garage helped the police identify and arrest the perpetrators. I have always supported the use of surveillance cameras in city-owned parking garages. Although they may not deter crime, as in Adam’s case, they can certainly help the police, after the fact.

However, I do not support government sponsored and taxpayer financed downtown surveillance cameras placed in high visibility public areas such as our streets and sidewalks for three reasons:

1) Existing comparative data
do not demonstrate significant positive effects on crime deterrence or apprehension with continuous public surveillance in high visibility, high traffic areas, such as public streets and sidewalks. What does have a significant effect on both deterrence and apprehension is a significant police presence.

2) The data also suggest that the cost of general surveillance camera programs may be a waste of limited public safety resources, when compared to the value and flexibility of an increased police presence downtown. That is one reason why, after two public hearings and a Scheduled Public Comment on the matter, the City Council voted against reconsideration of funding them.

There is simply no effective substitute for well trained, dedicated and strategically deployed police officers. I firmly believe that local public safety policies ought to be data driven and optimized with regard to both effectiveness and cost. Accordingly, surveillance cameras have long been used in city-owned high-risk properties such as parking facilities.

Real police presence in the downtown area has also been significantly enhanced, consistent with the Columbia Police Department’s new data and resource driven policy of “geographic policing.” Concurrently, I would encourage the downtown merchants and property owners to make their own decisions with respect to the benefits and costs of private property surveillance.

3) There is no "probable cause” associated with continuous general public surveillance. Without “probable cause” citizens do have a "right to privacy" conferred by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures, even in public areas.

Nonetheless, I continue to support the use of city surveillance cameras in high-risk public areas such as city parking garages, where probable cause is likely to exist because of poor sight lines, limited public activity, etc.

As the record indicates, I have voted accordingly.

Karl Skala
Columbia Third Ward City Councilman

10) Housing News from Bank of Missouri's Tom Stone

The housing market continues to show signs of stabilization, and although home prices are not about to spike higher, the decline certainly seems to have subsided. Existing Home Sales came in better than expectations, reaching their highest level in two years, as you can see in the chart below.

Tom Stone
The Bank of Missouri
Asst. Vice President

Mike Martin
The Columbia Heart Beat

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike - you should have e-mailed me about the James Berry case - the phone number listed for me in the book goes to just voice mail and doesn't ring in at the house. Give me a call on my cell phone (239-1132) and I'll be MORE than happy to fill you in! (I won't be available from 7-9:30 this evening, but any other time is fine).