Questions linger in rubble


By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

VALE – The IOOF Building, once home to the Golden Slipper, sits in a pile of rubble, surrounded by a fence to keep the public safe.

Tangled in the heap is a stack of unpaid taxes and government invoices that no one’s sure who will pay.

Officials from both the county and the city are currently working on a plan to clean up the land and sell it or sell the property and leaving to the new owner the job of removing the rubble.

The building collapsed Monday, Jan. 23, just hours after city officials taped it off over safety concerns. Officials then leveled what remained of the two-story structure, creating a tall mound in the heart of Vale.

The Vale City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 24, authorized the city to spend money to fence off the property.

The city also has served abatement notices to entities and individuals who are on record as having some ownership interest.

One notice, served to Wyman Investors, returned as non-deliverable. State records show the company, which bought the building in 2003, no longer exists. A second notice, served to Margaret Stallknecht, was served both electronically and by mail. Stallknecht, who was under contract to buy the building, hadn’t responded to the city.

“They have 10 days from Jan. 27 to either deal with the situation or appeal the abatement notice,” said Vale City Manager Lynn Findley. “After that date, it would be up to the city council to decide the next action.”

Findley estimates cleanup cost of the site at approximately $25,000.

“That estimate does not include if asbestos or lead is found,” Findley said. “The cost would then be much higher.”

Working with the city, the county also wants a solution.

“The county court has not been approached formally, but we are working with the city in an effort to reach an agreement and get this cleaned up,” said County Counsel Stephanie Williams. “Nobody wants this sitting like it is until October.”

The collapse came just weeks after state officials put the 1908 building on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city of Vale sold the property to Wyman Investors in 2003 for $26,000. The company was based in Estacada, but has since but dissolved by state officials.

Wyman used the building to secure a $50,000 loan from Wells Fargo Bank and in 2008 sold the property to Stallknecht for $120,000, according to county records.

Stallknecht told the Malheur Enterprise on Monday that she stopped making payments when the founder of Wyman Investors died. She said she left the building in 2013 and claims no ownership interest. She now lives in Coos Bay.

A Wells Fargo spokesman said the bank doesn’t claim ownership of the property even though it holds a lien against it. The bank doesn’t have any responsibility for the clean up costs, the spokesman said.

Besides the bank mortgage, the property is encumbered by $3,250 in unpaid property taxes and $5,414 in unpaid city services.

For now, the city is picking up the cost of fencing around the area. Installation of the fence cost $1,000 with a monthly rental fee of $100 as long as the fence is used.

Malheur County has a foreclosure judgment on the land for the unpaid taxes and by state law must take ownership Oct. 5. If that happens, all liens against the property would be removed and go unpaid.

All costs incurred by the city would be forgotten and any money from the sale of the property would be placed into the county coffers.

“We realize the citizens of Vale don’t want the pile sitting there all through the summer,” said Findley. “We all agree something must be done. The question is who will pay for the cleanup.”