Building quarantine upheld
The Washington City Council voted Wednesday to affirm the declaration of a building that was the site of a methamphetamine lab as a dangerous building, after the owner requested a hearing.
Owner John Heal of Marengo was not present at the meeting when the hearing on whether to keep the building at 322 N. D Ave. closed due to meth residue contamination. On March 12, local law enforcement officials executed a search warrant on the building and located a meth lab. The building has been closed due to hazardous contamination conditions from meth residue. A final decision will be prepared and the council will vote on it during its Sept. 4 meeting.
City attorney Craig Arbuckle led the city’s case. He took testimony from building official Steve Donnolly and Washington Police Sgt. Ron See.
Donnolly said the building had been quarantined for safety reasons and no one is allowed in without city permission. He had also served Heal the papers. Donnolly said he had spoken to Heal earlier that afternoon and Heal had said he would not be present.
He said the official address is 322 N. D Ave., but the building in question is one of four buildings all registered under one address. He said the building that was quarantined is at 423 N. C Ave. It is the northeast corner building on the lot. Heal had been renting the buildings to another subject at the time of the search warrant.
The property has been tested twice, Donnolly said. He said a company from Mt. Pleasant that does meth testing and cleanup tested the building. He said that the tests showed strong meth contamination and the property was unsafe and hazardous to the public. He said it was quarantined before testing was done based on advice of law enforcement. See said the recommendation was based on the evidence found on the scene and interviews of suspects.
According to court records, many items used in the manufacture of amphetamine, including camp fuel, lithium batteries, cold packs, lye, drain cleaner, pseudoephedrine tablets, funnels, measuring cups, and coffee filters were found on the premises. Items used in meth distribution, including digital scales and packaging materials, were also located. Methamphetamine was also found during the search.
The search warrant was the result of a long investigation, See — a member of the Washington/Louisa Drug Task Force since 2004 — told the council. He said on March 12 the warrant was executed and law enforcement found evidence that several meth labs had been used on the premises. A cleanup crew was hired to dispose of hazardous material found on-site. He said there were many flammable liquids and acids in the building.
“This was an extreme hazard,” See said. “One of the state agents who came to assist us said it was one of the largest labs he had ever seen.”
He said that there was lethal potential because of flammability. He also said it could also be life-threatening to anyone in the building due to the contamination.
Donnolly also provided letters to and from Heal to the council. Arbuckle asked that the record reflect that Heal was given the opportunity to provide evidence and had not done so.