Jesse Lee Home

The dilapidated Jesse Lee home as seen in this 2018 photo is set to be demolished by the City of Seward.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Lance Joanis gave the non-profit Friends of Jesse Lee Home (FJLH) 24 hours to post $72,000 in order to preserve a restraining order preventing demolition of the historic Jesse Lee Home site.

Onsite preparations and hazardous material removal were temporarily halted when the FJLH secured the order against the City of Seward last Thursday. The city then filed a motion to reconsider the validity of the order, claiming the FJLH filed their request without necessary legal representation or posting of bond. Judge Joanis’s ruling seeks to address the bond issue.

The restraining order accompanied a suit filed by the FJLH alleging bad faith and unfair dealings on the part of the city, citing an obstruction of the Friends’ efforts to fulfill their obligations under the terms of their deed. When the FJLH was not able to meet these obligations by Aug. 29, 2019, ownership of the property reverted to the City of Seward. Funds granted by the state for renovation of the remaining structures were then reallocated for their demolition. 

Though the FJLH still retains the deed, the city has claimed ownership for the last year. An Aug. 24 city council vote awarded the demolition contract to Coldfoot Environmental Services, which was set to begin razing the structures on Sept. 9. 

On receipt of the restraining order, Coldfoot crews halted their preparations and stood by through the holiday weekend at the cost of over $16,000 a day, according to documents filed by city attorney Samuel Severin. The $72,000 bond will be applied to the city’s mounting costs in the event demolition proceedings are allowed to resume. 

Under the terms of the order, the Friends of Jesse Lee Home have until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to post the funds, or the restraining order will be lifted on Thursday at midnight. At the time of this writing, FJLH President Dorene Lorenz was unavailable for comment.