Plans to clean up downtown in the works

Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson says he’s crafting a taskforce to help him figure out how to get a handle on issues downtown, including a proposal to target downtown building owners who don’t take care of their properties and are attracting transients.

Meantime, Aberdeen City Attorney Eric Nelson also recommended conducting a workshop with council members next month and cautioned them that his initial research shows that many of the so-called problem spots in downtown Aberdeen aren’t necessarily owned by out-of-town investors, but by locals who may have inherited property and just aren’t taking care of it.

“I think you may be surprised,” Nelson told council members.

Aberdeen Police Chief Bob Torgerson has already drafted paperwork that he wants building owners to sign and post on their properties, which would either allow written permission to be on the premises from the owner or absolutely forbids entry. With such a sign on doorways and vestibules, Torgerson said he can have his officers begin to tell transients camped in doorways to move along.

“Otherwise, it’s on private property and unless we receive a direct complaint from the property owner, there’s not much we can do about it,” Torgerson told the Aberdeen Public Safety Committee Wednesday night.

Aberdeen City Councilman Pete Schave said he also wants more done to ensure downtown business owners come up with a minimum maintenance agreement to deal with their property, especially if it’s falling into disrepair or has been for years.

Simpson said such an agreement is on the top of his list.

Simpson said he wants a taskforce to help him come up with other goals, noting he wants three members of the council on it as well as three members of the public. Simpson said he’s already appointing Mike Spezia, who sits on the board for the Aberdeen Revitalization Movement, to help out. Spezia is also the advertising director for The Daily World.

“Mike volunteered to help us mitigate this problem and we’re going to take him up on it,” Simpson said.

Earlier this month, a packed house of more than 100 residents turned out to protest the closure of the D&R Theatre and what they perceived as problems the city was giving the popular music venue. Owner John Yonich has since announced he’s re-opening the theater.

On Wednesday, supporters of a Facebook page called “Get Rid of Tweekers in Aberdeen” — which has more than 1,300 “likes” — also turned out urging the city to do more about consistent drug houses and problems in the city with transients. They wanted more information about Neighborhood Watches and said the city should out-right ban giving out money to those standing on corners with signs. Chief Torgerson has already installed signs in some areas of the city discouraging that activity and trying to get people to donate more to charity, instead.

Simpson said he’s hearing the concerns and working with city officials to handle the issues within existing law.