Blue Springs: One Property at a Time

Pure Nebraska
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:32 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 9:35 AM CST
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BLUE SPRINGS, Neb. (KOLN) - Volunteers in a small Gage county town are buying rundown properties, cleaning up lots, and attracting new construction.

We caught up with Rex Adams, who is the chairman of an organization called “One Property At A Time.”

“The organization was formed in 2017,” Adams said. “It started with Dan Disney coming to my house, saying that some lady was being chased down the street with a knife. He said we needed a change in the direction our community was going. So, four of us got together and purchased a house where the property was. It was up for a sheriff’s sale. We bought it, and that’s where we started this effort.”

Since then, volunteers with One Property At A Time have worked to buy many rundown properties in Blue Springs. “We’ve taken down 33 houses,” Adams said. “Four of them were occupied. We bought those, and paid their price. The others were all unoccupied, which tells you the state the houses probably were in.” By cleaning up the properties, the overall appearance of town has greatly improved. The local Thomas Foundation is in support of the project. “We have community fundraisers,” Adams said. “The benevolent nature of people in the community is great. Take Brent Schlake’s excavator, for example. We couldn’t do this without Brent Schlake. There’s many people in the community who believe in what we are doing.”

Mama Bear Dens building contractor Curt Hagerman believes in the effort. He’s built the first new home on a free lot, and it’s already sold.

“I actually live in Blue Springs down the street,” Hagerman said. “We ride our bikes, me and my five-year-old to school, a few blocks away. I would like to build two or three more homes like this one, in the $200,000 to $250,000 range for the community.”

More homes are scheduled to be built where dilapidated structures once stood.

“Out of the 33 houses we’ve taken down, the total valuation was right at $300,000,” Adams said. “With the three permits, and Cornhusker Bargain Warehouse, we are already at $409,000 in new valuation growth. If someone wants a new home, we have lots, and we are willing to work with them.”

New builders are eligible to get free lots, and there are other opportunities, too.

“All of these lots have most of the services already running to them, we just have to hook on again,” Blue Springs mayor Lonnie Meyer said. “It’s a win-win for the person wanting to build a house. Meyer says the city is happy to work with One Property At A Time to demolish unwanted homes, and prepare the lots for new construction. “We are paying our workers every day anyway,” Meyer said. “If we are not taking any services away from the community, we are actually helping the community by letting our people run the equipment that gets donated to help take these houses down.”

Steve Borgman runs Papa B’s Keno and Grill in town. The Blue Springs native is excited to see the progress.

“I just see it improving,” Borgman said. “People are more excited, I see new people coming in, I hear people from out of town saying, wow, this is really a nice community.”

Borgman says this could happen in other towns, but it all requires leadership.

“You’ve got Rex Adams and Dan Disney who’ve spent a lot of time on it,” Borgman said. “You have to have some people who are willing to do some work.”

And the work is definitely making a difference in Blue Springs.

“From 2013 to 2017 per the sheriff’s report, there were 485 calls to service in Blue Springs in that time frame, basically the average of those four years,” Adams said. “Since 2017 to now, it’s 229 calls, so we are changing the direction of our community slowly by cleaning up the community.”