By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

VALE – The Malheur County Court voted today to speed up the process to take over and then sell the property once home to the Golden Slipper Restaurant.

The county is in line to assume ownership of the IOOF Building because of long unpaid property taxes of $3,400.

The shuttered building in downtown Vale collapsed last January under a heavy snow load.

The process to take title under law wouldn’t start until October and the county wouldn’t become the owner until approximately January.

The updated time line will place the property in county hands by the end of September after a public hearing next month.

At Wednesday’s county court meeting, Vale City Manager Lynn Findley provided a history of the property, explaining the muddled ownership issue currently.

The city, which had taken title for unpaid taxes, sold the building to Wyman Investments in 2003 for $26,000. Wyman Investments has since been dissolved by the state, meaning it no longer legally exists as a company.

Wyman Investments had mortgaged the property to secure a $50,000 loan from Wells Fargo Bank and then sold the Vale landmark in 2008 for $120,000 to Margaret Stallknecht.

Stallknecht operated a private museum on the property but abandoned it in 2013 when Wells Fargo moved to foreclose.

At one time, Wells Fargo had the property on the list for a sheriff’s sale, but pulled the request days before the auction.

“It is the building nobody seems to want,” Findley said.

Findley had sought federal disaster money to clean up the rubble, but that doesn’t appear a likely source.

“We currently have three bids to clean up the property, all between $50,000 to $60,000,” Finley said

Vale City Attorney Larry Sullivan and Malheur County Counsel Stephanie Williams have discussed the law that allows the county to expedite the process, according to Findley.

“We are ready to go,” said Williams. “We can have a hearing by the end of July and by the end of September, we should be able to offer it for sale.”

Williams discussed two options with the court.

The first would have the county sell the property with an understanding the buyer would be responsible for the cleanup.

The second would have the county pay for the cleanup and attempt to recover the costs at the time of sale of a vacant lot.

“I would say sell the property for what we can get and have them pay cleanup,” said Commissioner Larry Wilson.

Findley also urged the expedited cleanup to take advantage of current waiver on asbestos handling by the state Department of Environmental Quality, one that may not be available later this year.

The city has been covering a $500-a-month expense to keep the debris fenced.

“If you expedite the decision to take the property, the city will continue to pay for the safety fence in place,” he said. “We would not do that if you wait until October.”