The formerly derelict property at 363 Washington Avenue in Valparaiso has been knocked down – and now, it has a new owner, but not without just a taste of controversy, thanks to an odd bid to buy the property from the City of Valparaiso.
In 2022, the city finally knocked down the abandoned house on the lot after nearly a decade of trying to have the building condemned. Because the land was condemned and owed back taxes, the city could take the property over from the former landowner.
The Commission voted to award the property to Watree Construction, a homebuilder from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Watree had the highest bid, sort of, at $90,023 for the lot.
I say sort of – because a total of three bids came in for the Valparaiso Commission to consider. The first bid, lower than Watree’s, was for $70,007. The last bid just said, ‘whatever the highest bid is, plus $100.’
The +$100 bid violated the spirit of what was called the closed bid process, according to the commission. Mayor Brent Smith made the motion to go with the second bidder (which turned out to be Watree) and said, “I just think that you got a guy [the third bidder] who says, ‘I’ll raise the highest bid by $100’. Well, you can’t do that, because then it is not a sealed bid.”
City attorney Hayward Dykes supported Smith’s logic, adding “This commission reserves the right to accept bids, [or] reject all bids.” Dykes added, “I think that [the +$100 bid] probably runs against the spirit of what [the commission was] trying to do with the sealed bid process.
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