An audience of 18 listened to a City of Centralia administrative hearing dedicated to buildings, three, that the city of Centralia considers nuisances and in need of abatement.
First up was Larry Goodman, who owns property at 720 South Central. Testifying Wednesday night, September 23, in Centralia City Hall before the audience and all six of Centralia’s aldermen, he agreed with the assertion made by Cydney Mayfield, city attorney that the conditions of the building were decayed, dilapidated and deteriorated and the building constituted a public nuisance and must be torn down and demolished.
Goodman also waived his right to have an attorney present. “If you don’t demolish it, the city will be demolish it and the cost will be entered as a lien against your property,” Randall Thompson, an attorney, who ran the meeting in lieu of Centralia Mayor Chris Cox, who had recused himself.
“We wanted the legal representative to be an independent third party…,” Cox said when asked why he recused himself. “I thought it was better for the city to have an independent counsel overseeing the proceedings to eliminate the possibility of any perceptions of agendas.”
Goodman thanked the board for their assistance and consideration.”
Next was Cindy Hamilton, the owner of #4 Kellogg Drive.
Mayfield described the property as in a state of deterioration and disrepair for several years, and subject of complaints from neighboring property owners. That included cats, raccoons and overgrown shrubbery which “posed a danger to their grandchildren.”
She also referenced a city-commissioned report from MECO Engineering on the structural situation of the building, conditions the report said, poised a public nuisance and a danger of collapse.
Mayfield also said a neighbor sustained a life-threatening illness from the mosquitoes infesting the property.
Thompson asked Hamilton if she wanted to make a statement.
“We’ve been through this several times before… it is just a matter of affording to get it done.” She denied the mosquito situation, saying that was a problem of a neighboring easement. Hamilton said her repair process was “just slow.”
Mayfield called City Administrator Heather Russell to testify.
“It’s been on the city’s radar for quite some time and we have received numerous complaints… and mosquitoes breeding in a Koi pond… we had received earlier in the year as well,” Russell said. Responding to Mayfield’s questions, she said the property violated six provisions of the public nuisance portion of the city code.
“I believe the property is irreparable and presents a public nuisance at this time,” Russell said. She also said she would like to see it demolished within 90 days.
Hamilton said “I have been putting dunkers in the Koi pond… I have been back there working and has not seen mosquitoes back there.”
CPD officer Logan Feger also testified. He said while patrolling on Kellogg Drive, he noticed the house’s garage door open. He said he had never seen it open before and under the “exigent circumstances portion of the Fourth Amendment he did an emergency search and saw more than 10 cats “and the garage floor was very sticky, covered with feces and the floor inside the house was “squishy… as if the foundation was not stable… the oven was in the crawl-space.” He said he had body camera footage of the interior of the house from during his visit inside the home. A portion of the footage was played for the aldermen and the audience.
Hamilton objected to the video being admitted as evidence because Feger did not have a warrant to enter the home and she kept the garage door open for the cats to be able to feed in the garage.
Thompson rejected her objection.
The video showed the oven and debris covering the floor.
Mayfield also called James Bensman a structural engineer with MECO Engineering.
Serious disrepair and structural distress, were two ways he described the building and agreed with the city’s assertion that it was unsafe.
Dayne Aitkens, who lives at #3 Kellogg drive, also testified. “The mosquitoes are awful… I got two of 10 to 15 mosquito bites on my leg got severely infected… What I know is that after Steve’s Pest Control sprayed, we have not had any more problems.”
He said the condition of the property impacted his property value, “that’s why I got it so cheap.”
Hamilton said she had no witnesses to call and did not want to testify on her behalf.
Thompson said he had 30 days to issue an opinion. He said she had the right to appeal to the circuit court and advised her to obtain an attorney should she decide to appeal his decision, and the city would bill her if the city demolished it.
Hamilton said she plans to eventually demolish the building on her own.
Next was the hearing for Carrol Ray Dollens, owner of 308 North Jefferson. “You’re not going to steal my property, he said before being sworn in.”
Dollens asked for a delay because Cox had recused himself.
Thompson denied the request.
Article 2 section 5, constitutes a nuisance and a dangerous structure needs to be demolished and needs to be removed, Mayfield said, regarding Dollens’ property. She called it a nuisance and public safety hazard under city code. IMPARTIAL.
“How many people here own their own houses,” Dollens said when beginning his opening statements, which led Thompson say Dollens could not question the aldermen. “I have $100,000 worth of insurance on the property, maybe that is worth something, you tell me.”
Russell was again called as witness. She said she had received several complaints about the property, starting in 2018. “You can barely see there is a house there, it is so overgrown with vegetation… very difficult to see any house at all.”
Russell said due to the house’ “overgrown” condition, it needed to be demolished. She also said that certified mail stating that had been sent to and receive by Dollens.
“Why didn’t she contact me in 2018,” Dollens said when asked if he objected to the letter being received into evidence.
Russell said she had a phone conversation with him. Dollens said she did not and offered his Bible for her to swear upon. She declined. “I have already been sworn in.” He asked if she knew the zoning classification of his property, and if she knew who had been stealing his sheet rock, who had been on his property and left cat food cans there, if she had been on the property, and if there were any grants for demolition.
“We have $1,500 grants for property demolition.”
He also asked if there was a Coronavirus cleanup grant. Mayfield and Thompson objected to the question.
“I can’t answer that question,” Russell said when Dollens asked if his property was as bad as Hamilton’s. Mayfield asked Russell if the property was “in the top 10 of bad properties in Centralia.” Russell said it was.
Charlie Stidham, owner of the property immediately south of Dollens’ also testified. “I’ve had problems with the raccoons,” he said when asked if he had any problems with the property. He said a raccoon from Dollens’ property got in his business and “tore up my office.”
He said he thought the property was a nuisance and needed to be demolished.
Dollens asked Stidham if he wanted to buy his property for $10,000. “I’ll talk to you outside about that if you want,” Stidham said. Dollens later told Thompson he wanted to sell it to put his wife through nursing school.
In response to Thompson’s question, Stidham said he had never seen raccoons entering or leaving Dollens’ house.
“If Charlie buys it it’s all over with,” Dollens said. “My aunt died in that house, there’s a tank under that house, it is as toxic as hell. I want to get out of this town and out of your hair.”