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Monson family given extra time to clean up feed lot

The Monson family will have an additional eight months to clean out their feed lot before the city of Sunnyside finalizes its purchase of the 150 acres just outside the city limits.

The city purchased the property in October 2004 for $2.5 million to both reduce the smell of cattle waste and to set aside the property for commercial development.

Under the purchase agreement, payments for the property were made in installments based on clean-up of the lot.

An initial payment of $1 million was made in February 2005 when no additional cattle were delivered to the site. A second payment of $750,000 was made when the last of the more than 20,000 cattle were removed from the land. A third, and final, payment will be delayed due to the extended clean-up time given the Monsons

The Sunnyside City Council last night approved the delay, which will see the city take ownership after April 1, 2007 rather than Aug. 31, 2006. The agreement wraps up discussion on the extension that city officials and the Monsons have had since earlier this summer.

Assistant City Manager Mark Kunkler told council that the Monsons were delayed in the clean-up-which requires for all manure to be removed-because of heavy rains this past spring.

Kunkler called the delay good news rather than bad news because it also allows the city of Sunnyside to forward the final $750,000 payment into the 2007 budget year rather than 2006.

"We are very pleased with the progress the Monsons have made," Kunkler said in recommending council's approval for the delay.

Under terms of the delayed transition, the city will be able to take ownership of half of the property it has purchased, pending a city inspection this week or next.

City Councilwoman Carol Stone asked why council was being asked to approve the delay before an inspection was conducted.

"That's a good question," Kunkler replied. He explained that the council action would authorize the inspection by city officials and only then if it meets the inspection will the amended contract be put into effect.

Mayor pro tem Jim Restucci said he was not concerned about the delay and praised the improved air quality that has resulted from the feed lot closure and clean-up to date.

"I don't smell it anymore," said Restucci, who lives in Sunnyside's Harrison Hill neighborhood. "It's 10 times better."

Added Councilwoman Theresa Hancock, "For the first time I can open my windows at night."

The final step in cleaning the Monson property is not all the city needs to do in preparation for taking over all 150 acres next spring, and eventually selling it for business uses.

Sunnyside, with approval from Yakima County, hopes to eventually annex the land. That, in turn, will enable the city to provide water and sewer utility services to the area.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said earlier this summer that he had already received a few comments of general interest in the property. Once in full city ownership, Stockwell has indicated Sunnyside should have no problem recouping its investment.

Noting the 150 acres is one of the biggest single stretches of open land along I-82, Stockwell has noted the site should have a good response for prospective light industrial, commercial or retail operations.

According to Stockwell, the city's vision for the Monson property isn't just about the removal of odors, but the long term addition of jobs and sales tax base for Sunnyside.

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