Taking out the trash

For years a property on Henni Road was a scourge to the surrounding community. After spending most of the 1990s as a popular drug hangout, it became a junkyard littered with cars, tires and trash.

Homeowners in the area hope that sad chapter will come to an end after the county cleans up the property this winter.

The Henni Road lot is one of three properties the county is spending $89,000 to clean up. The other properties include a five-acre parcel on Hollydale Lane that was originally littered with nearly 70 cars, and a 33-acre parcel on Highway 20 north of Oak Harbor that has several buildings that need to be removed.

Work Crews began their week-long cleanup of the Henni Road property on Wednesday.

The county confiscated the 3.9-acre property in November 2000 and spent the first couple months cataloging and disposing the more than 20 cars that were abandoned on the property.

Code Enforcement Officer Matt Kukuk said the county confiscated the property because it violated the county’s junkyard ordinance and the owners wouldn’t remove the junk.

He added the Henni Road property was easily in the worst condition of the three properties.

Since the county took over ownership, the property had to go through an asbestos abatement and county officials had to find an appropriate contractor to handle the cleanup.

“We’re trying to do this in the least expensive way possible,” Kukuk said.

The work crew spent the past couple days sorting the junk on the property.

Don Collier, project manager for 3 Kings Environmental, a Battle Ground-based company hired by the county, wants to recycle as much of the trash as possible.

“The whole goal is to divert this from landfills,” Collier said.

In addition to the cars and tires, there were several tractors, an old bus and bags full of dirty diapers littering on the property.

“The trash just keeps coming out,” Collier said and added that it will take more than a week to complete the Henni Road clean up.

There are two buildings and a single-wide trailer that need to be destroyed. However, those are also full of trash.

“The house is waste-high full of garbage,” Kukuk said and pointed out an engine block sitting on the kitchen floor.

The cleanup comes as a welcome site for neighbors.

“It’s about time and is long overdue,” said John Van Every, who lives nearby on Henni Road. “It’s a constant eyesore.”

He said the house was a hotspot for drug activity and he wished the property was cleaned up sooner.

Kukuk sympathized with neighbors in the area, but pointed out that budget problems and the scope of the cleanup caused delays.

The property on Henni Road has been a well-known area for law enforcement officers throughout the 1990s.

“We did a number of search warrants and arrests on that property for a number of years,” said Island County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson, Jan Smith.

She credited the neighborhood for reporting illegal activities.

“The neighbors kept their standards high. They were patient and they were vigilant,” Smith said.

She described the property as more of a compound and a frequent home to transients.

In 1995, the Department of Ecology assessed the property for contamination from a meth lab, Smith said.

Even after the county confiscated the property, the Sheriff’s Office responded to trespassing calls and people continued to dump trash.

Van Every said he would like to see the property converted into a park.

Kukuk said that, once the cleanup is complete, the three properties will be put up for sale. That’s the only way the county can recoup some of the money used to clean the properties, he added.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at or 675-6611.

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