WALLA WALLA - "Most people are aware of the mess we have at the Blue Mountain Mall that has been there for about three years," City Attorney Tim Donaldson told City Council on Wednesday night.
Donaldson was referring to the partially demolished and partially constructed buildings at the southern end of the mall.
Along with the walls, some of which are now leaning precariously, Donaldson said there are problems with construction debris strewn about the grounds, recurring graffiti, uncontrolled weeds that become fire hazards or clog up drainage systems, and an insufficient security fence that, at times, has allowed motorists to drive in and out of the abandoned construction area.
Even on the northern end - where Sears, ShopKo and Pizza Hut have remained open - there have been problems with the now vacant building that had once been Gottschalks.
"Over time people broke the windows and made their way into the building, and we have had vagrants and animals in the building," Donaldson said.
For the most part, the problems detailed by Donaldson have been apparent to those who drive by the Poplar Street border of the mall, as well as the fact that work crews were back on the site last week.
That recent activity, Donaldson explained, is part of a city-initiated cleanup, not the owners starting work again.
What is not so apparent is the amount of work the city has invested in trying to legally force a cleanup by the mall owners, a process that has been stalled and complicated by foreclosures and changes of ownership.
"The names of these entities, I don't think means anything. It is the same old group," Donaldson said.
Donaldson summarized three years of city involvement over the privately owned mall.
To help people understand this extensive process, the Union-Bulletin is publishing the time line Donaldson used at his presentation on the Blue Mountain Mall.