Ridenour is now managing Horton Rentals. Started by her father, the late Junior Horton, around 1970, the business is still owned by Horton's widow, Shirley. Ridenour's sister, Becky Vineyard, who managed the business for many years, is now in poor health and has stepped aside. Shirley Horton asked Ridenour, her other daughter, to step in.
Ridenour never wanted to have anything to do with her father's rental business. She admits her father had "his own way" of dealing with properties, one that put him in conflict with the city frequently over maintenance issues.
Since taking charge two years ago in September, Ridenour said she has spent $200,000 cleaning up dilapidated properties. The houses at 515 N. Lincoln and 310 Myrtle are scheduled for demolition, because they had deteriorated beyond repair.
Horton Properties presently has 27 separate rental houses. Fifteen are rented, 12 are empty, because they are being renovated. Several are nearly ready to rent again but still have interior work to complete. There are five additional buildings that contain 20 apartment units.
"I'm a retired cake decorator," Ridenour said. "I retired due to my health. As long as I'm sitting and I can take a little rest, I'm okay. My husband, Kenneth, is disabled. You couldn't pay me to do this. This is a huge undertaking."
Ridenour has hired work crews to renovate and repair homes based on her vision for improvement. Ridenour and her husband do not personally do the labor. Her mother continues to offer some direction.
To date, Ridenour has been able to renovate the interior and exterior of 11 houses. Home repairs have generally gone beyond superficial. Roofs with multiple layers of shingles have to be stripped and sometimes the decking has to be replaced. Ridenour has found floors that have fallen in from lack of maintenance, in addition to rough handling from tenants.
On Kyler Street, Horton Properties owns four houses in one block. Work on one house brought problems on the structure next door to Ridenour's attention. Work was finished on 212 and 210 S. Kyler, then the porch, railing, roof and siding were replaced on 204 S. Kyler. Even city council members acknowledged the block looks much better.
"The first house I took on was 604 Pearl," Ridenour said. "It was pretty good on the outside and the back porch needed to be fixed, but the interior was terrible. I took ugly hopeless material and made it livable. The people who were renting it are still there. They give me a hug when they come to pay the rent."
Ridenour is keenly aware of the need for lower income housing in Monett. She said she has lowered rents while she tried to proceed with repairs. She has helped renters in difficult conditions and taken her share of people leaving without paying.
"Every town is going to have lower income places," Ridenour said. "These houses are perfect if I can get them brought up the way I want to. I see more hurting people than people living the good life. Jobs are hard to come by and a lot of people are living on a smaller wage than they ever expected."
Ridenour admits there are a lot of properties involved. Her husband told city council members they need to finish some of the renovations to get houses back on the market, bringing in rent to pay for more renovations.
Selling off properties did not look like a viable alternative. Ridenour said the houses need repairs before they could even be considered for sale, especially in a difficult housing market.
At the present time, seven Horton Rentals buildings have been cited for building code violations, mostly for exterior problems. One case is scheduled for trial on Aug. 30 in Municipal Court.
Ridenour said she has never had occasion to go to court before. She finds the process embarrassing and does not consider herself responsible for the problems she is trying to repair. Ridenour told city council members she would like to concentrate her efforts on finishing houses rather than being stretched by violation notices on many properties at the same time.
"I appreciate what you've done up to this point," said Mayor Jim Orr. "We can't make decisions for the city court."
"The houses are all paid for," Ridenour told The Times. "We're going to have to do something with them. I'd rather try to make them work than tear them down. We live in Monett. This is pride and progress."