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House demolition cost paid in full


The cost of demolishing a house on Holly Street has been paid for by the brother of the woman who last lived there, Mayor Greg Wilder told the Coulee Dam Town Council last Wednesday, after first soliciting approval of a plan to match an extra related gift for fire department improvements.

Wilder initiated discussion by stating that $300 had been given to the town. He didn’t mention that the check written by Jim Sayles was for $15,000, just $300 more than the cost of the cleanup.

Wilder suggested the town could match the $300 if the fire fighters’ association would also match it to fund some need at the fire department with $900.

The house at 611 Holly Street burned down after its last occupant had died, leaving no apparent owner and the town in a quandary about how to recoup costs of cleanup, accomplished by a contractor.

That cost $14,700, which Councilmember Ben Alling has worried would be an illegal gift of public funds to Sayles, whose sister long ago had been married to two of Wilder’s brothers. Alling and citizen Keith St. Jeor have brought the issue up at several council meetings, expressing unease with the handshake agreement Wilder had told the council he had reached with Sayles, whom he had known since high school days and trusted.

Wilder said Wednesday night he was confused by their misgivings. But then led the council in a discussion of what to do with the $300. The talk soon devolved into a question of whether the town wouldn’t just be giving the fire department money already allocated to it.

Wilder finally said he wanted to bring the discussion “full circle” and announced that a gift had been made to the town, effectively paying the demolition bill.

Sayles told Wilder in a letter last August that he did not own the house on the property his parents, McKinley “Red” and Ethel Sayles, bought in 1963. But until 2012, when his attorney advised against it, he had been paying some expenses on the house in which his sister lived. He had hoped the town would simply be able to sell it to recoup the cost of cleaning up the property.

Assessed in 2011 at more than $70,000, the empty house burned in 2012.

Then last December, the county, which had placed a lien on the property for unpaid taxes, sold it to a Ford, Wash. man for $3,635. Its assessed value as “undeveloped property” is $10,000, according to Okanogan County records.

In a March 6 letter by Sayles accompanying his check, he apologized, “for the many inconveniences this entire storyline has caused. It is my sincere wish that this gesture of goodwill can restore a long over-due harmony and balance on my behalf, and in the name of my parents and their affection for Coulee Dam.”

Alling said the town should write back and thank Sayles for the gift.

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