PENDLETON
Old city hall
faces daily fines 
as winter hits
and repair slows

Members of the Quezada family and friends move roof trusses into position on the top floor of the old city hall building on Dec. 7 in Pendleton.

The owners of Pendleton’s old city hall ran out of reprieves.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Pendleton City Council voted to begin enforcing the nuisance ordinance against the owners beginning Wednesday, meaning they could be charged up to $500 per day.

The effort to re-roof the burned out shell of old city hall has been under scrutiny of the city council since October.

The city tried to cite the owners of the building, the Quezadas, after they failed to repair the fire and water damage more than a year after the building was severely burned in a firework accident in July 2015.

In October, the council agreed to stave off the fines from the nuisance ordinance if the Quezadas put a new roof on the building by the end of the year.

Although construction commenced, the roof appeared to be incomplete as the new year began and a city staff report confirmed it.

“At this point only structural bearing walls and trusses have been installed,” building official Ty Woolsley wrote on Tuesday. “No roof sheathing or roofing is in place at this moment. This leaves the structure susceptible to more weather damage as time continues.”

Fire marshal Shawn Penninger also inspected the building and delivered a similarly grim report, referring to the large amount of debris in the alley way behind the building as a fire hazard.

“As we talked about last week this place is a mess and I haven’t seen any real progress in the last couple of weeks,” he wrote to fire chief Mike Ciraulo in an email Tuesday. “Sadly I think it’s time for action for this property. It has posed a public safety risk and is not getting mitigated nearly as quickly as it should have. The amount of potential fire load coupled with no sprinklers to speak of in that block (means) we could stand to lose a lot in the event of a fire.”

The debris’ close proximity to the building spurred councilor Becky Marks to scold the Quezadas, who were represented by Jose Quezada and his adult children — Diana, Miguel and Marco.

“You’re jeopardizing the safety and security of the buildings around you,” she said. “That’s where my heartburn comes from.”

Miguel Quezada said the family could remove the debris this week.

City attorney Nancy Kerns said the council should vote on whether the city should continue to declare the building a nuisance and also whether to provide another extension or enforce the ordinance.

If the council decided to enforce the ordinance, the city would fine the Quezadas the maximum $500 per day, with the municipal court judge given the option of adjusting the rate if they contested it in court.

If the Quezadas fix the roof by the court date, Kerns said the issue would be at the discretion of the judge.

The council unanimously agreed that the building should still be a nuisance, but enforcement was a more contentious issue.

Casey Severe, a general contractor and Quezada family friend who is assisting them with the project, said the Quezadas were a victim of “the worst winter in 10 years” and a drawn-out bid process for supplies.

If the family got an extended period of dry weather, Miguel Quezada said they could have the roof done in three weeks.

Councilor Scott Fairley said fining the family would require them to redirect their resources from the roofing project to the fines and would only prolong the building’s disrepair.

He suggested the council extend the enforcement date until the Quezadas had three weeks of good weather to finish the roof.

Calling in from home while he recovers from knee surgery, councilor Paul Chalmers said he didn’t think it would be feasible for the council or city staff to define “good weather.”

Ultimately, the council voted 5-3 to begin enforcing the nuisance ordinance, with councilors Fairley, Jake Cambier and John Brenne voting against.

The council’s decision sparked the ire of Miguel Quezada.

“Jerks,” Miguel Quezada said to the council before leaving the chambers.

———

Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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