A New Hope

Rachael Keating/Clinton HeraldNew Hope Lutheran Church’s building on North Fourth Street in Clinton will be taken over by Clinton’s Aaron Brewer and turned into a community center.

CLINTON — Jan. 10, 2009, changed the fate of a Clinton church.

Now, with demolition on the horizon, there’s new hope for a former Lutheran church that occupies space on North Fourth Street, still showing signs from the blaze that destroyed the building almost 10 years ago.

Aaron Brewer is planning to purchase the property, which had been penciled in on the city of Clinton’s demolition list. Brewer approached the Clinton County Board of Supervisors this week to ask the county’s permission to forgive back taxes on the property.

“We’re looking to rehab it into a community center with a food business attached,” Brewer said. “We’ve been interested in this place for about a year now.”

It’s been sitting empty for far longer.

New Hope Lutheran Church was still operational entering the beginning of 2009, albeit with dwindling numbers. However, when a fire broke out, the church’s operations changed, with the remaining 30 members having to worship at another church.

One year to the date of the fire, the congregation disbanded but the building remained.

That building was set to be demolished until Brewer stepped in to save it for a community center.

In order to rescue the building, the sale with End of the Road, LLC, based out of Papillion, Nebraska, was contingent on forgiving the back taxes.

And while the Supervisors pushed the agreement forward by starting a discussion with the Clinton County Treasurer’s office, it wasn’t without some discouragement by the board’s members.

“From a purely 50,000-foot point of view, the decision as a community is do you want this as a standing, functioning building?” Clinton County Supervisor Shawn Hamerlinck said. “It’s best to move forward with this. But I’m disappointed with how the law allows this to happen.”

The issue at hand is the ability for outside companies to purchase property, not pay taxes and then sell the property for a profit, Hamerlinck said.

This is not an uncommon sight in municipalities like Clinton.

“In reality, they’re holding local governments hostage,” Hamerlinck said. “It’s demo by neglect or local governments are forced to forgive debt on it.”

End of the Road, LLC, owns 15 properties in Clinton, according to Clinton County land records. The majority of those were foreclosed properties, purchased with unpaid taxes associated with the properties, according to land records.

Clinton County Supervisor Dan Srp joined Hamerlinck in the hope brought on by the project, but also the disappointment of forgiving taxes.

“I feel eager and happy to make it better, but not eager to forgive these taxes to the seller,” Srp said.

The property does feature a slight zoning problem, Brewer said, but he said he has worked with Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke about correcting that issue.

After it’s worked out with the Treasurer’s office, a resolution will appear in the future regarding the project for the Board of Supervisors.