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City tears down house to build a new parking lot
The city of Port Orchard has started tearing down two buildings it bought at the height of the housing boom for office space and now plans to replace with a gravel parking lot.
“These buildings have just become more difficult to maintain than the value gained,” said Mark Dorsey, the city’s engineer. “We’re going to be turning it into a gravel parking lot with wheel stops.”
But many questions about the new gravel parking garage haven’t yet been answered, he said.
“How many stalls will there be? Will it be paid? Permanent? Free? Charged? Who parks there?” he asked.
The city council has yet to address those concerns.
“I just have money to take the buildings down and do a gravel parking lot,” Dorsey said.
The city has so far paid $6,765 in expenses associated with removing asbestos from the buildings, and the Finance Department estimates it will pay an additional $12,500 to the city of Bremerton to remove the buildings and $8,000 in dump fees.
The buildings had obvious structural problems, said Dorsey.
“There’s mold and mildew,” he said. “The roof was leaking like crazy, the windows were leaking. The foundation was bad. There were a number of things that were wrong.”
But Gerry Harmon, a Port Orchard resident, told Port Orchard’s city council she thought the city could have given the building away and avoided many of those fees.
“I guess I’m really disappointed that the city didn’t try some alternative ways (to get rid of the building),” she said. “Maybe offering it to somebody free to move instead of just destroying it.”
Given enough time, she said, someone might have come forward willing to move the building free of charge, she said.
“We paid an awful lot of money for that building,” she said “and it’s just being thrown away in my opinion.”
Mayor Lary Coppola said that probably wouldn’t be as easy as it sounds.
“Both of the buildings have significant mold issues, and the city would have liability if they let someone do that,” he said.
The city of Port Orchard tested one of the buildings for mold, but not the other, before beginning demolition.
Four different types of mold were found in the building the city checked.
Coppola said he wished the city hadn’t bought the buildings at the height of the housing market.
“I don’t think there’s anybody up here that’s any happier than you,” he told Harman.
Dorsey said it wasn’t a huge issue for the city, and “much ado about nothing.”
“Bremerton has torn down 100 buildings in the last few years,” he said.
But for many in Port Orchard, it is a big issue.
“I remember when the city bought the houses, several years ago, saying that they intended to rent them out or use them for office space,” said Jerry Childs, who lives next door to the houses and serves Port Orchard’s city council. “I testified against buying (them). I thought it was extravagant.”
The city’s leaders were unclear about their purpose for the purchase, he said.
“We weren’t sure what they were up to, or why they wanted to buy the houses,” he said. “We just weren’t sure. The comment from (then-Mayor Kim Abel) was that it was an opportunity to by additional space for city hall, and they could pay it off with the rent and stuff.”
And the decision had a significant impact on the city, Childs said.
“That was a huge, huge hit in the pocket book for the city,” he said. “Those buildings are now not giving us income.”