News

City dispute ending with Industrial Skills out of building

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

The emotionally charged battle between Industrial Skills and the city of Enumclaw - with ownership of a valuable piece of Battersby Avenue property as the focal point - has apparently gone the way of the city.

Correspondence between attorneys last week indicated the city's belief the property has been abandoned and, therefore, Industrial Skills has relenquished all rights to a $10-per-year lease it had enjoyed for many years. The city is now acting on the assumption it has no obligation to Industrial Skills and can do whatever it wants with the building and land.

The two entities enjoyed a mutually beneficial business relationship for years, whereby Industrial Skills maintained a "sheltered workshop" for those with mental and physical disabilities. Workers accomplished a variety of tasks inside the Battersby location, earned a modest salary and enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment. The city had acquired the large building through a grant intended to help the disadvantaged, and leased the property to Industrial Skills for the token sum of $10 per year.

The two began feuding during the past year, however, after Industrial Skills fell on hard times. The organization was deemed out of compliance with demands tied to federal funding and the financial flow was cut off; as a result, the operation that once employed more than 60 developmentally delayed adults was reportedly assisting only between five and 10.

To provide collateral for a loan, Industrial Skills asked the city of Enumclaw to hand over the keys to the Battersby property. When the city balked, the hard feelings surfaced. During a public meeting, Industrial Skills' attorney argued the city should ignore the wording of the original lease and pay more attention to the intent - namely, to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged.

The city counters that it is responsible for a valuable piece of publicly-owned property, and would be on shaky legal ground to simply give it away.

The city paid nothing to acquire the property, but had stepped forward when a public agency was needed to accept state money. Enumclaw and Industrial Skills acted as partners to obtain the Battersby property; the city owns the building and land and accepted the responsibility for managing the site in accordance with Referendum 29 stipulations.

When Industrial Skills was no longer meeting its requirements, the city began enforcement action. Industrial Skills was given the opportunity to either comply with the rules or forfeit its right to the $10 lease.

A March 18 letter from City Attorney Mike Reynolds to Raymond Gessel, attorney for Industrial Skills, stated the city's case. "We will conclude the building is abandoned, your clients have no further rights to the lease or rental agreement and that they have abandoned all personal property within the building," Reynolds' letter said.

The letter indicated the city will allow Industrial Skills to remove its property from the building, but anything remaining after Friday will be handled by the city (thrown away, given away or sold).

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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