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City of Sunnyside no longer in rental housing business

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Sunnyside City Councilman Don Vlieger gestures towards the kitchen in the old Monson house. Cupboards have been torn off and the oven and sinks stolen.

A house the city of Sunnyside owns on the property known as the West Sunnyside Business Park has been destroyed by vandals.

Doors are missing, fixtures have been stolen, feces and condoms litter the floors in some rooms and the basement is flooded. Interestingly enough, there are no beer cans or bottles on the floor. The vandals that use the house for whatever reasons either don't use it to party or clean up the evidence when they leave.

The house on the former Monson feedlot property was inherited by the city when the land was purchased. One family rented the residence, but left sometime in 2007.

The house came up in discussion at a Sunnyside City Council workshop earlier this month. Council wanted to see if the home was in decent enough shape to fix up and possibly rent out. Councilman Don Vlieger told the Daily Sun News the money gained from renting the home could be used to market the 100-plus acre property.

But Vlieger and Councilman Mike Farmer found the place too damaged to bring back up to code.

The city, by some accounts, didn't like being in the rental business. The deal with the last renters called for the city to supply heating oil for the house. Sunnyside City Manager Mark Gervasi said the costs were astronomical. At the workshop earlier this month Sunnyside Councilwoman Theresa Hancock noted the heating costs were higher than what the city was collecting for rent.

City workers had to go out to the home, day or night, to fill the tank holding the heating oil whenever it came up empty, costing the city even more money.

Once the renters left, the place was boarded up and after several incidents of vandalism an alarm was set up that tied in directly to the police department. Sunnyside police received four calls of activity once the alarm was set up. In activity from Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2010, police responded to one burglary/information call, a suspicious activity call and two reports of trespassing.

Vlieger and Farmer are upset with how the property was maintained, with Vlieger asking how the public can trust government if the public can't trust government to take care of its own property.

But the vandalism might have a silver lining wrapped around it.

With the house in its current condition, Gervasi said the house will most likely be used by the Sunnyside Fire Department as a 'learn to burn' exercise.

"It's an attractive nuisance," Gervasi said. "We just need to get rid of it."

The house has to come down regardless. Once the city annexes the property, it will be zoned either industrial or commercial. Whoever buys the property will have to tear down the house and remove it.

With the house gone Gervasi said the property might be even more attractive to a potential buyer, since the extra cost of tearing down the house will also be gone.

Other options are also on the table. Gervasi said there could be asbestos in the house and an environmental review must be done. If everything checks out, the city could offer the house for sale if someone was willing to move it.

Another option would be to let the group Habitat for Humanity come in and salvage what they can from the house.

One thing is for sure. The city doesn't want to put one more dime into the house.

"The big picture things are what we need to focus on," Gervasi said.

Whatever happens to the house, however, will ultimately come down to what the city council desires, Gervasi said.

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