City orders second demolition
What started as a discussion of how the Washington City Council was going to handle the building at 322 N. D Ave. that has been declared hazardous due to meth contamination quickly led to a discussion about the building at 415 W. Madison St. that the council voted to demolish earlier this month.
While the council voted to also demolish the building at 322 N. D Ave., council member Bob Shellmyer renewed his objection to the practice of the city paying for demolition of buildings. During discussion, city administrator Brent Hinson said it would cost about $47,000 to abate the meth contamination and $15,000 to demolish the building. He said the money to demolish the building would come from the city’s general fund and assess the costs to the property.
“It has been fenced off for nine months and we have followed all of the proper procedures,” Hinson said. “We have gone through all the proper legal procedures. The only possible way for this to proceed and be mitigated is for the city to take action.”
While the official address is on North D Avenue, Hinson said, there are four buildings at that address and the one that is contaminated is facing North C Avenue. He said this is the location where the meth ring that was arrested at the beginning of the year did most of its cooks. Hinson said the building is on a site with three other buildings, meaning the owner will pay the assessment for the work or risk losing the property.
Shellmyer asked if Hinson had specifically asked the bank holding the deed to 415 W. Madison if it would be willing to pay for demolition. Hinson said he had not. Hinson said that until the bank forecloses, it has no legal authority to demolish the house. He said there would be a “short-term hit to the taxpayer’s wallet” but he believed the money could be recouped.
“In my estimation, we don’t have much concern for the taxpayers in Ward 3,” Shellmyer said. “Why should the taxpayers in Ward 3 pay for Ward 4’s problem?”
Mayor Sandra Johnson asked if Shellmyer felt responsibility to the public to protect it from health concerns from the meth. She also said that she and Hinson had discussions with the bank regarding problem properties in town.
Shellmyer also questioned why the building next to the Madison Street building hasn’t been declared a nuisance. The building, he said, has a broken pool. City buildings director Steve Donnolly said that the city is going to remove the pool at the same time the meth house is demolished. The work will be charged to the property owners.
“You have to plan a path,” Donnolly said. “You either have to decide you want to get rid of dilapidated buildings in town or you don’t.”
Shellmyer said there are plenty of houses in town that look worse than the Madison Street house.
Several people questioned the discussion, saying that the question before the council dealt with the North D Avenue property.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he is a great proponent of property rights, but he felt the city needed to move ahead on this because it is a question of public health.
“I think the question is whether the city is going to take a productive roll in taking care of these problem properties or is the city going to leave them to rot with no certainty of resolution at any time in the future, or is the city going to use the tools at its disposal to see that problem property is taken care of?” Hinson said. “Certainly there are many other problem properties in town, and we are going to have a list — definitely something that is going to require city focus.”
The council approved removing the building, with Shellmyer voting against the motion.
Owner John Heal requested a hearing on the building being declared hazardous during the Aug. 21 meeting. Heal was not present for the hearing. The council upheld the ruling.