Dan Disney was speaking with someone from out of town last fall when he heard that some refer to the town of Blue Springs in an unpleasant way.
We won’t reprint the word, but it was recently used by the president to describe places like Haiti and a few African nations.
“That's how people look at us,” Disney said.
He’d like to change that reputation.
Last year, Disney and several other residents started a nonprofit organization called "One Property at a Time," to turn things around for Blue Springs.
Like many small communities around Nebraska, Blue Springs suffers from dilapidated houses, unkempt yards and other eyesores, Disney said, and they’ve got just one mission: they’re going to clean it up.
“Clean the town up,” he said. “That's it. Our goal is not to bring a whole bunch of business into town. It'd be great if it did, but, bottom line, we want to clean the town up.”
So far, the dozen or so members of One Property at a Time have purchased two properties with ramshackle houses, torn down the buildings and put the land back on the market. They’ve also cleaned up about 10 yards by raking and trimming trees and bushes for elderly residents of Blue Springs.
When the group resells a property, the price depends on the investment being made, Disney said. If the buyers are just interested in the property, they’ll offer it at the organization’s purchasing cost. For an investment of $50,000, the new owner can buy it for half of what One Property at a Time paid for it. If someone’s coming in to make $100,000 worth of investments in that property, they’ll give it to them outright.
Junk houses, as Disney called them, can draw squatters and undesirable activities. By tearing them down and starting from scratch, he said, the town has a chance to rebound.
Annual events that bring out-of-towners to Blue Springs, like the Bike and Car Show, should be an opportunity to make a good first impression, but a lot of times, it’s just the opposite, Disney said.
“You can walk through that car show and talk to them and none of them say, ‘Gee, this is a pretty town,’" he said.
All of the projects are completed through volunteer work, Disney said. The group is a nonprofit organization, so if someone wants to donate to the group, they’ll get a receipt and everything is tax deductible.
One Property at a Time is also planning a fundraiser for the spring and they’re looking for volunteers, he said.
The whole project starts and ends with community pride and civic engagement. The town needs a change, Disney said, and the group is trying to make it better.
“They're proud of it,” he said. “It means something to them. And it should. We just want to get some pride back in the town. It used to be quite a town way back in the day. But, anymore, it's getting to run into nothing. We just want to get some pride back into it.”
More information on One Property at a Time can be found at onepropertyne.com.