Reuter found guilty on 20 of 30 counts<br>
The interior of the La Pineda, located on South Second Street, now sits empty. While the sides of the La Pineda are fenced, the back of the building remains completely open and is easily accessible. This photo was taken through a broken window
Recently sold by Reuter, the La Pineda is only one of her several properties in Williams that have been troublesome eyesores and safety hazards to the community for many years.
Some of Reuter’s other problematic sites include the abandoned elementary school on Sheridan Avenue and Second Street, the youth hostel in the 100 block of West Route 66 and the Grand Canyon Hotel across the street at the northeast corner of Second Street and Route 66. The Grand Canyon Hotel was sold in a trustee’s sale on Feb. 17 in Flagstaff. It is unknown who purchased the hotel.
Reuter has owned these buildings for approximately 20 years and has allowed them to deteriorate almost to the point of being completely unusable. City officials have tried for many years to legally force the owner to either sell or make changes to the properties — including issuing arrest warrants — but with little success.
“She’s been in abatement for 15 years,” said Williams Fire Marshall and Abatement Officer Phillip Langston.
Williams City Manager Dennis Wells said he understands and shares the frustration felt by the community about the situation and wishes more could be done.
“The way property laws are written, property owners are very protected and it is very difficult to take property away from an owner, which is good in most cases,” Wells explained. “But in a case like this, it makes it very difficult to see some justice come out of it.”
Though the main question in the minds of both Williams residents and city officials is “When will we be able to get those properties out of the hands of Reuter,” another important issue is why Reuter hasn’t done anything with the properties in the first place. Both Reuter and her Prescott-based attorney, Alex Harris, haven’t returned calls made by the News requesting an interview, but those who have had contact with the property owner did offer a few theories.
“She’s not playing with a full deck,” says Valle’s Planes of Fame Curator/Director Bob Reed. Reed had recent contact with Reuter when he voluntarily tried to act as a mediator by proposing that Reuter donate the old buildings to the Planes of Fame Museum for renovation. From his conversations with her, Reed was able to offer some insight into Reuter’s character and reasoning.
“She’s a very bitter lady. As far as Williams goes, if she figured what she was doing could cause the city to sink, she would do it. She had nothing good to say about any part, any one, or anything within Williams,” said Reed.
Reed states that Reuter is also facing the same issues with property she owns in Bisbee and possibly even Tucson.
“This woman is holding a whole series of communities hostage with properties that she owns,” said Reed.
Leonard Frankel of Associated Growth Capital Inc. in Phoenix also shares the opinion that Reuter may be confused about how to effectively manage her properties, especially in regards to the Grand Canyon Hotel.
“The reason this property has never sold from a willing seller to a willing buyer is because the seller is a bit — let me say — confused about what it’s worth,” Frankel explains.
AGCI, the beneficiary of the Feb. 17 Grand Canyon Hotel trustee’s sale, put the building on the market because Reuter had defaulted on a $250,000 loan. Reuter’s collateral for the loan was the Grand Canyon Hotel, and according to Frankel, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in an attempt to block the sale just a few days before it went on the market.
“It’s due basically to the fact that Frances (Reuter), I believe, finally ran out of money,” Frankel said. “So consequently, she’s scrambling. Chapter 13 is a staying action, a delaying action. She tried to do the same thing on what is known in her vernacular as ‘The Ranch.’ That’s another piece of property that was foreclosed on last week, I think.”
Williams City Manager Dennis Wells had similar thoughts on why Reuter has held on to her properties for so long, saying she may have felt that keeping her property would increase its value over time. However, Wells points out that without proper maintenance and upkeep, an increase in value is an unrealistic view.
Reuter’s court convictions may not do much to wrench the remaining Williams properties out of her hands, but Wells and others at city hall are happy to at least see some action come out of the legal proceedings against Reuter that have been taking place for so long. Wells assured the News that aggressive legal pursuit against Reuter would continue.
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