Carolyn Ball, a resident of Sully, convinced the board of supervisors on May 3 to delay Jasper County’s acquisition of an abandoned acreage that used to be her home until the late 1990s. After making contact with the property owner, Ball has made an offer to purchase and reclaim the 2.18-acre parcel.
However, the supervisors created a deadline of May 30 for Ball to show proof the purchase agreement with current property owner Tillie Ford has been signed. The delay is also contingent upon the county attorney’s review and that Ball clean up the property into something more desirable.
Although lawyers were nearly complete with the process, the supervisors were fine with halting the process. Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma said it would save more money in the long run.
Ball and her husband used to own the property at 8770 S. 76th Ave. E., which is about one-and-a-half miles west of Killduff. After Ball’s husband died of an asthma attack at age 57 in 1996, a close friend and neighbor, Bob Antle, rented the abutting farmland for the next year and got his start in farming.
For more than 20 years, Antle farmed the surrounding farmland until his health began to fail, Ball said. In July 2018, Antle died from cancer at age 45. Ball’s son-in-law, Murray Pothoven, does the farming now. According to the county’s GIS data, Ball owns approximately 211.05 acres of land around the property.
About two-and-a-half years after Ball’s husband died, she eventually needed to sell the acreage to buy a house in town. Joel and Tiffany Vanderkrol bought the residential parcel before selling it to Great Western Bank in 2013. The bank would then sell the property to Ford. Ball tried to reclaim the property off and on.
“We tried to buy back the acreage at different times to put it back with our farm, even trying the delinquent tax route, which didn’t work and found out it really didn’t have a chance,” she said. “Then on Dec. 23, 2021, we heard on KCOB radio about the property being abandoned and the county wanting to acquire it.”
Ball was disappointed no one from the county tried contacting her about the situation, especially since her farm ground is on multiple sides of the property. Ball said she called county community development director Kevin Luetters a week after the radio report, asking if she could contact Ford to sell the acreage.
“Kevin said we could but we would have to clean up the property if we buy it,” Ball said. “Which we definitely would do.”
Ball learned from Luetters the county ordinances had been charged. If property is under 2.5 acres and not attached to a farm anymore and has been abandoned, the county can take action, Ball said. But Ball was under the impression it takes a long time for this process to occur.
When Ball noticed the abandonment petition in the Newton News on April 1, she phoned Ford and asked if she knew of the situation. At that time, Ball made an offer to buy the property, which she claimed Ford accepted. Ford then sent the property abstract in good faith to go ahead with the sale.
However, Ball said she and her attorney needed more time to get the purchase agreement finalized. Ball was advised by her attorney to seek more time from the county and the law firm handling the petition process. The process to finish the petition was two to three weeks away from completion.
At the May 3 board meeting, a representative of the Caldwell, Brierly & Chalupa, PLLC law firm said the property has been sitting empty since 2014 and has been considered a “problem property.” Talsma asked the Caldwell representative if it was possible to put a hold on the process.
Part of the problem with that, the representative said, is because the purchase agreement stated the county had an obligation to dismiss out the legal action. If the firm completes about 99 percent of the work and then dismiss the case, the firm worried there was a chance the agreement would fall through.
If that happened, the county would be back at square one.
Luetters estimated it would cost the county $26,000-$27,000 to demolish the property and pay for attorney fees. So far the county has invested about $5,000 for attorney fees.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or email@example.com