Soldotna approves demolition of house damaged by fire

The Soldotna City Council voted during its Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 meeting at Soldotna City Hall, pictured here, to appropriate funding to demolish a building that was damaged by fire three years ago.

The Soldotna City Council voted during its Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 meeting at Soldotna City Hall, pictured here, to appropriate funding to demolish a building that was damaged by fire three years ago.

The city of Soldotna is moving forward in the demolition of what council members and neighbors describe as a dangerous house after it was destroyed by a fire three years ago.

The Soldotna City Council unanimously voted at its Wednesday meeting to enact an ordinance that will appropriate $20,000 for the “demolition of a dangerous building” on West Riverview Avenue. The building was damaged in a fire three years ago, said City Manager Mark Dixson and a few city residents living on neighboring properties who testified at the meeting.

Since then, city staff have been working with the property owner to bring the burnt building into compliance, Dixson said. Eventually, he said, it became clear that the building would not be abated and that the city would have to take another path.

“We’ve had issues of illegal camping that we’ve been addressing over there,” Dixson said.

The city council in February 2016 approved a resolution that let the city attorney file a lawsuit for “failure to abate a dangerous building,” according to Wednesday’s ordinance.

“Although we have no control over the lengthy legal process we’re at the point that the court has finally adjudicated this a dangerous building and is giving us the authorization to abate the dangerous building,” Dixson said.

The city will use the funds approved Wednesday to contract with North Star Paving for the building demolition, which had returned a bid of just under $11,900, according to a memo from Dixson to the council. The rest of the funds will go toward materials testing and disposal fees, according to the memo.

The issue of the damaged house has come before the council and the city before. Neighbors who commented on the ordinance at the meeting said they have been emailing and otherwise contacting the city in regard to the house. They described it as an eyesore and as a cause of worry in the neighborhood.

The house has no water or electricity, but people still congregate on the property late at night, neighbors said.

Some council members questioned whether there is anything the city can do to prevent this type of prolonged situation from happening again, or to resolve a similar situation more quickly in the future. Dixson emphasized that the property owner has rights when it comes to the house that the city cannot violate, and that the process once the court is involved is a lengthy one.

City Engineer Kyle Kornelis said the city will work to execute the contract with North Star Paving immediately after the funding appropriation, and that the demolition should take place in a matter of weeks. The court decision allowing the city to demolish the building pertains only to the house, not to the other material, such as vehicles, currently in the yard, Dixson said.

The issue will be back in court in May, and Dixson said the city hopes to get judgement against property owner to recoup costs. The funds used to contract with North Star Paving should be included in damages in the lawsuit, Dixson said, but it is unlikely the city will recoup other costs associated with the demolition.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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