Action to clean up mall mess is welcome

The piles of debris and shells of buildings on the old Blue Mountain Mall property are a source of embarrassment.

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City officials, like just about everybody else living in the Walla Walla Valley, have had enough when it comes to the rubble that was once the Blue Mountain Mall.

Legal action was started recently to force the owners of the property to clean up the mess or, if they won't, the city will do it for them and send 'em the bill.

This news was greeted throughout the Valley with resounding cheers. The eyesore that was the mall -- the piles of debris and shells of buildings that look like a war zone -- has been a source of embarrassment to the community and its citizens.

We, too, are thrilled with the prospect of removal of this blight.

However, we are tempering our enthusiasm with harsh reality. Getting mall owners Walla Walla Town Center LLC to do anything -- including paying the bill for clean up -- is going to be extremely difficult. It's been tough to pin down the location of the owners or get a list of their names.

Still, bravo to City Attorney Tim Donaldson and city officials for getting this legal ball rolling.

"These folks haven't done anything. They've been unresponsive," Donaldson said Tuesday. "The time has come. It's past time."

The city is now asking a Superior Court judge for a warrant to enter and clean up the property. If the request is approved, this could eventually force the sale of the property where much of the mall was essentially demolished and abandoned before the new buildings were finished.

The first task is to rid the property of the debris so it is not a visual disaster and a safety hazard.

If the city puts the heavy equipment in motion, it needs to do the work as efficiently as possible. Trying to get repayment from the mall owners could be a long shot as the city of Walla Walla is likely not the first in line of creditors seeking payment for debts.

"One of the things we're trying to balance here is how much do we go in and do things which improve their value and have them take benefit," Donaldson said. "We're not going to put the public in a position where the public is (financing) their holding costs."

In the end, taxpayers might be on the hook for some legal and cleanup costs, but it is a reasonable use of public money.

The mall debacle has gone on long enough. The city's decision to take legal action to clean it up is welcome.

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