Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson says he plans to launch a new, aggressive abatement campaign targeting downtown building owners, many of them from out of town, who have let their properties become derelict and the target of transients.
“We will send letters out to all of the businesses downtown to have a minimum maintenance agreement,” Simpson said. “We’re going to set up an agreement that the people have to keep their buildings maintained or we’ll go in and rip them down.”
Simpson briefly announced his plans during the Aberdeen City Council meeting Wednesday night, but elaborated about his proposal during an interview later.
“There are buildings not being used and too many buildings owned by people out of town and they just milk it,” Simpson said.
On the top of Simpson’s list is the old Morck Building, which continues to be an eyesore more than five years after developers first took a stab at developing the property.
The ambitious Morck project has been dormant since 2008 after the first group of owners sued each other over how the property should be developed. Ultimately, the whole case ended up in receivership in Grays Harbor Superior Court, with the receiver piece mealing the properties off.
The main Morck building went to the control of former debt holders, who banded together with original owner Chester Trabucco to take control of the main interests of the property. Amid a declining economy, the project has yet to take off. The county almost took possession of the Morck in 2011 when taxes hadn’t been paid on the property in years, but the taxes were paid at the last-minute, avoiding a public auction.
Still, the property remains a target for transients, who peel back plywood boards the city was forced to put on the building’s windows and doors. Recently, a neighboring property owner who owns the building where the old state-run liquor store used to be contacted the city and said she was having problems finding a tenant specifically because of the problems with the Morck building and transients.
“I’m hopeful something can still be done with the property,” Simpson said. “At a minimum, they need to put in windows and paint it, at this point. It’s just ugly. … We get transient complaints, we see them enter the building and we have to go down and board it up again. It all boils down to getting these business owners to get off their butts and do something.”
Part of the minimum maintenance agreement would allow the city to patrol for trespassers.
“I’m just getting tired of run-down buildings and of transients living downtown,” Simpson said. “We need to find a way to ensure that transients aren’t camping out and sleeping in the vestibules of these buildings. Right now, it’s private property, so we can’t do anything. … If they give us permission not to let people sit in their vestibules, then we can move them along.”
“I want to get the people off the streets that make it uncomfortable for people to come downtown and shop, I want to open up these businesses and make it happen,” Simpson added. “I’ve tried for so long to get cooperation from some of these building owners and the businesses that are in business cooperate, but it’s these closed-down buildings that have become derelict, which are our problems.”