No decision on dangerous building in Oskaloosa
by Dennis Sharkey
The Oskaloosa City Council heard a request from a building owner to condemn his building but did not act.
Phil Cline owns the building at 316 and 318 Washington Street. The building has been empty for more than two years because of a fire that destroyed the adjacent building.
In 2009 the building next to Cline’s caught on fire. After the fire the building was torn down and shortly thereafter Cline noticed issues with the structure of his building.
The east wall on Cline’s building was shared with the building that burned down. When the building was removed the wall was not secured and has been leaning away from the rest of the building since. Cline said the wall has moved an additional three inches since it was first inspected. Last year a visual inspection revealed that daylight could be seen coming through the wall.
Cline was accompanied by his attorney Dennis Hawver and he explained that Cline only needed a letter from a city engineer saying the building was condemned. Hawver said he had three engineering reports in hand that already state the building needs to be condemned and torn down. Without the letter Hawver said Cline would be forced to sue the insurance company.
Furthermore Hawver said if Cline’s building is not addressed it could affect other adjacent buildings.
While Hawver was explaining the situation, City Attorney Mike Hayes was whispering in the ear of Councilwoman Emily Malsbury. After Hawver was through talking Malsbury began asking questions.
Malsbury asked Hawver if Cline already sued his insurance company and if he received money for repairing the building. Hayes could also be heard telling Malsbury that Hawver did not have any official letter from the insurance company saying that they will be responsible for the costs if the city condemns the building. Malsbury asked to examine a piece of paper that Hawver was referring to.
The paper was a piece of Cline’s policy.
While Malsbury was reading Cline’s policy Hawver and Hayes got into a discussion. Hayes repeated what Malsbury had asked about and told Hawver that Cline collected insurance money and did not make repairs to the building.
Hawver responded by asking Hayes if he works for Carl Swoyer, the owner of the building that burned down. Cline has sued Swoyer over the incident in Jefferson County civil court.
“I’ve represented him in the past but not on this,” Hayes said.
Malsbury finished reading the policy and handed it back to Hawver.
“I don’t see how a letter from the engineer would satisfy that,” Malsbury said.
“Is there some reason you don’t want him to collect this money from the insurance company?” Hawver responded to Hayes and Malsbury.
“The city is not involved in his lawsuit,” Hayes said.
“I’m not trying to involve the city,” Hawver responded. “I’m trying to take money away from Allstate.”
Hayes told Hawver to sue Allstate and settle the matter with them and again accused Cline of taking a settlement and not repairing the building. Hawver told the council that Hayes’ statement was not true and thanked them.
After a closed session later in the meeting the council decided to instruct Swoyer to put up fencing to keep people off the property.
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