Industrial Skills files bankruptcy; city's clean-up effort put on hold

The city of Enumclaw's plan to clean out and then market the former Industrial Skills building on Battersby Avenue has hit a legal snag.

Industrial Skills, which occupied the huge building for years and provided jobs for those with developmental disabilities, has filed for bankruptcy. While the issue works its way through the courts, everything surrounding the building - and its contents - is placed on hold.

The development is just the latest step in a messy issue that has played out over the past couple of years. Industrial Skills ran into problems when federal funding was pulled and the number of people it helped continued to dwindle; eventually, the operation walked away from the Battersby site, leaving nearly everything, including hundreds of large boxes of donated goods, behind. The city had always owned the building, having acquired it for the sole purpose of providing a sheltered workshop, specifically Industrial Skills. The city paid nothing for the property, but was the agency handling the state money used for the purchase. Taking ownership, the city leased the property to Industrial Skills for the token payment of $10 per year.

When other sources of funding dried up, Industrial Skills asked the city to hand over ownership of the property. The city refused, arguing that a public asset couldn't be given away, and, eventually, the Industrial Skills operation disappeared - except for mountains of clothing, household items and other donations that had been stockpiled. Also in the building are the remains of a former commercial tenant.

When Industrial Skills abandoned the site, the city assumed ownership and began the process of cleaning out the building. Trucks started delivering goods to charitable organizations and the Enumclaw City Council authorized the spending of $10,000 to clean out the building. Mount Rainier National Bank, which was owed money by Industrial Skills, took possession of some of the valuable commercial equipment and other items, looking for ways to recoup its losses.

Now, with the May 29 filing of bankruptcy, the city has locked the doors and put a halt to the clean-up process.

A meeting of creditors has been scheduled for the afternoon of June 12, and the city is hoping clean-up plans can continue after that session in Seattle.

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