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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Council takes next step on blighted Gillson property

Catie Clark
Posted 4/17/24

ELY— Jason Gillson now has 30 days to address his blighted property at 45 E. Boundary St. following a Tuesday city council hearing during which Gillson said he’s willing to cooperate with …

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Council takes next step on blighted Gillson property


ELY— Jason Gillson now has 30 days to address his blighted property at 45 E. Boundary St. following a Tuesday city council hearing during which Gillson said he’s willing to cooperate with the city in hopes of getting his house back.
But Gillson’s cooperation was in question after he repeatedly postponed, then canceled, a visit by Ely Building Official Doug Whitney just ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting. As the hearing began, Whitney explained that the owners of the property, which include Gillson and Gillson’s stepfather, Mark Herman, of Jacobson, had agreed to a visit by the city that Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. Then, Gillson rescheduled the visit to 1 p.m. and then 1:15 p.m. Gillson then cancelled the visit for the day.
“So, we have not been in the property yet,” Whitney said. He went on to explain that the Sept. 13, 2023 fire on the property had been in the basement with “smoke damage throughout the main floor.”
Gillson appeared at the hearing, stating that the insurance inspection was done last Friday.
“At the advice of my lawyer, I had waited to let them in as soon as (my lawyer) said it was okay.” He did not offer any explanation why it took almost eight months before he arranged an insurance inspection other than his lawyer’s advice.
Gillson said the insurance inspector gave him a verbal report but that he has not yet received a written report. He said that report is likely to “dictate whether (the home) was possibly habitable again … I’m more than happy to cooperate to get my home back.”
Following Tuesday’s hearing, the Ely City Council passed a resolution declaring the property as blighted and gave the owners 30 days to remedy the situation. The city has issued several notices prior to Gillson, most recently on March 7 of this year, but they have resulted in little if any noticeable improvement at the site.
The home has been vacant since the fire last fall, which was allegedly set by Gillson during a domestic dispute. Immediately after the fire, Ely Building Official Doug Whitney posted the structure as “unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable.”
On Tuesday, Gillson said he knew the deadline from the March violation notice had expired, but explained that he lacked the funds to fix the home until he receives an insurance settlement.
Whitney told the Timberjay this week that the property finally received an insurance inspection “a couple of Fridays ago.” Gillson and Herman informed the city that they now have a contractor.
According to Whitney, however, the city has not received any permit applications or scope of work from a contractor as to what needs to be done to remedy the interior of the residence.
Gillson explained his cancellation of the Tuesday visit for the city because “I’ve had a bit of reluctance with (dealing with) Mr. Whitney … He said I’d be best off just selling the place and leaving town.” Gillson conceded he might have misunderstood Whitney.
Langowski cautioned Gillson, “This can’t go on indefinitely. There are actions that must occur on this property, and it’s deemed uninhabitable. The whole neighborhood is dealing with the blight and that’s what makes this a serious issue.”
After the hearing and city council meeting, Whitney told the Timberjay that Gillson’s recollection of their conversations was not accurate. “What I told him was that he had three options: to sell the property, to get a contractor and fix the property, or to take the insurance settlement and let the city deal with the property.”
Public records show that Gillson and Herman bought the property, which includes a lot and a three-bedroom home, for $75,000 in 2021.
Alleged arson
Gillson was charged on Sept. 13 with felony counts of arson, assault of a peace officer, flight from a peace officer, and discharge of a firearm within city limits. He was also charged with misdemeanor domestic assault of a woman living with him at the residence. The cascade of events allegedly started with a domestic altercation between the two.
The Sept. 13 incident was the second episode in less than a month where Gillson was arrested for alleged actions at 45 E. Boundary St. He was charged with felony discharge of a firearm within a municipality during a domestic altercation with a woman who was living at the house on Aug. 20.
Gillson was released on $150,000 bail on Sept. 16. Since then, Gillson has appeared at multiple hearings as he has progressed through the justice system. He was scheduled for a settlement hearing on Feb. 12, which was rescheduled for April 8. Settlement hearings are usually where a defendant and the prosecuting attorneys finalize a plea bargain arrangement.
At the April 8 hearing, Gillson did not agree to a plea bargain. He was instead scheduled for a jury trial, currently set for Sept. 17.