Lisle Township looks to sell Naperville youth home
After 34 years in the real estate business, Lisle Township officials say they no longer want to be a landlord.
Several township officials said they didn't know until recently they even owned a house at 146 N. Sleight St. in Naperville. But the decision to sell it came quickly after a meeting with city leaders who expressed concern about the number of police calls at the site, which has served as a ChildServ group home for troubled teen girls since 1978.
ChildServ President and CEO James Jones said the property, which has been leased to his organization for $1 a year, is strategically located and vital to the group's mission in DuPage County. The property is so important that the group intends to submit an offer above the minimum bid requirement of $380,000 to purchase the building.
Township Supervisor Charles Clarke said Lisle Township purchased the house in 1978 for $77,200 from a different not-for-profit organization. Soon after the purchase, ChildServ moved in and continued the $1 lease agreement while paying all of the home's expenses.
Township Clerk Richard Tarulis said the annual lease renewal became so routine that several officials weren't aware the township still owned the home.
"We don't spend any money on it, so it just never got discussed," Tarulis said, "It became so routine that I've been at the township for 10 years and I didn't even know we owned it."
The ownership issue arose late last year, however, when Naperville police asked to meet with township officials and Jones about frequent calls to the address regarding runaway girls.
"That was what we needed to hear to decide we no longer wanted to be a landlord," Clarke said. "The last thing we want is to be the middleman in an argument between ChildServ and the Naperville police. We don't have anything against ChildServ, but we don't want to be the owner of that property any longer."
In 2011 police responded to more than 400 calls to the home. Sgt. Gregg Bell said Monday that police have been called to the house 27 times in the past six months.
Currently three girls live in the home, but Jones said the facility has the staff and capacity to house six.
ChildServ has the right of first refusal to purchase the house. Jones said he understand's the township's position, even if it's not ideal for his organization.
"We have had a great and very open relationship with the township over a long period of time," Jones said. "It would be ideal if we were able to continue renting the property at a minimum rate, but that doesn't appear to be in the cards. So we will be active in the bidding process."
Neither Clarke nor Jones would specify the number of bedrooms or washrooms in the 10,050-square-foot brick building directly across from Ellsworth School, but Jones dismissed the notion that the group home was laid out in an unconventional fashion.
"It's a house. It has bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room just like any other house on Sleight Street," Jones said.
Clarke said the "old, old house" will need some work, regardless of who buys it.
"It's a livable house, but the walls are plastered and certainly show the house's age," Clarke said. "Whoever goes in there will have to do extensive improvements to the walls."
The township has set a minimum bid of $380,000, which is 80 percent of the appraised value, and all bids are due to Tarulis by 4 p.m. Sept. 11. Tarulis will then open the bids at the township's board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12.
"It's a very nice house," Tarulis said. "It might be a good buy for someone looking to put some work into their home."
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