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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Troubled property in Mead district to be cleaned up

Jerry McDowell and his Mead property, pictured on Wednesday, have been the source of neighbors’ complaints since 1981.
Jerry McDowell and his Mead property, pictured on Wednesday, have been the source of neighbors’ complaints since 1981.

Land near the Boys and Girls Club in north Spokane that’s become notorious for meth labs, criminal activity and garbage will be cleaned up, with costs shared by Spokane County and the Mead School District.

What’s more, the Mead district is considering buying the six parcels owned by Jerry McDowell.

An environmental analysis of the property will begin next week, Mead School District Facilities and Planning Director Ned Wendle said.

McDowell’s land has been identified by police and code enforcement as the site of repeated criminal activity since the early 1980s. Three methamphetamine labs have been busted at the address, 12509 N. Freya St., since 2009, one of which sent McDowell’s son to prison.

The county has agreed to pay up to $10,000 of the cost to assess the site’s soil for contamination. If the results of the environmental study come back clean and a feasibility study shows that buying the land makes sense, Wendle said the district could receive some much-needed surplus property.

“We’re probably a couple weeks away from having a really good idea about the property,” he said. Any decision about a land purchase would have to be approved by the district’s five-member board.

The agreement between the county and the district waives some of the costs of hauling junk from the property if the school district buys it. Neighbors say garbage has been illegally buried there, junk cars litter the property and squatters are stealing water from surrounding homes because of a lack of running water. The county may also waive any penalties or interest on back property taxes if the district buys the land.

A spokeswoman for the Mead Action Corp., a group that’s trying to revitalize the neighborhood, is in favor of a purchase by the school district. The spokeswoman didn’t want to be identified because she said she’s been threatened by people who once lived on the property.

McDowell said last month at a hearing that he planned to sell his land to the school district and move to Montana. He said he’d called law enforcement “until he was blue in the face” to report criminal activity on his property, but his calls fell on deaf ears.

McDowell won’t legally be moving until at least the end of next month, when he’s scheduled for a District Court appearance to review the terms of a deferred sentence after a criminal conviction for code violations. Under an abatement, the county can place a lien on his property so that cleanup costs come out of sales proceeds before any money goes into his pocket. It was prompted by McDowell’s failure to clean up the site by a court-imposed September deadline.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke, who represents Mead, said the agreement was a win-win, because the county would have to conduct the environmental analysis anyway as part of the abatement process.

“We said, ‘Why don’t we just split it with you?’ That seemed reasonable,” he said.

Wendle said no firm plans were in place for the parcels should the purchase be approved by the school board.

“It could be anything from a parking lot to a playfield,” Wendle said.

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