Runaway teen finds lodging at Villager

Nov. 10, 2005

By Patty Brandl

A former South Main Street motel that has been vacant since 2003
apparently provided temporary lodging for a teen runaway from Washington
state and two others, police officials say.

The property, which is owned by Dairyland Investments Inc., is in
receivership following an earlier foreclosure. The court-appointed
receiver, Gil Balin, told Fond du Lac Community Development Director
Wayne Rollin the property has been sold but would not provide him with
any other information. The Reporter was unable to reach Balin for comment.

“When we find out more, we’ll determine whether the use is good for the
city of Fond du Lac,” Rollin said Wednesday.

Fond du Lac Police Chief Tony Barthuly said Wednesday he had received a
tip that someone had entered the former Villager Lodge, 1325 S. Main St.
When patrol officers checked the building, there were signs of forced
entry.

Police Lt. Andy Gill said officers found the teenage girl inside the
building and took her into custody on a warrant from Tacoma, Wash. Two
others who had been staying in the rundown building left the area.

“The police made me aware that the chain had been cut (to gain entry to
the building),” Rollin said. “We had the place re-secured yesterday
(Tuesday). The doors are padlocked.”

The taxes are up to date and paid for 2004, he noted.

“I think the property itself is very well located and valuable,” he said.
“It’s about seven acres of land fronting on Highway 41. I don’t know if
the building has a future as a hotel. It would take a significant
investment to rehab the property.”

Parts of the building are in bad shape, including the former restaurant,
bar and ballroom, Rollin said, but the motel portion is structurally
sound.

A half-dozen people have called the city with proposals about the use of
the property since April 2003.

“Nothing in the past has proved feasible,” Rollin said.

Attorneys for Dairyland had asked the court to foreclose on the property
in late April 2003, shortly after unpaid utility bills resulted in the
cutoff of gas, electricity, water and phone services. City building
inspectors had deemed the premises unlivable, and the city was forced to
evict about 30 tenants of the building who were regular residents of the
building rather than motel guests.

Among those forced to vacate were families with small children, as well
as disabled and elderly residents, who were given 24-hour notice by the
city to pack their possessions and find new lodging. Although city
inspectors were sympathetic to the tenants’ situation, they said they
could not allow them to live in unsafe conditions.

Since the property is adjacent to the Ledgeview Corporate Center and is
visible from Highway 41, he suggested that either a corporate type of
land use or a big box retailer would be appropriate.

At some point, Rollin said the rundown property could begin to pose a
threat to the community.

“At that time we could condemn the property and remove the building,” he
said. “It’s not at that point yet.”

Meanwhile, the property has been secured and placed back on the police
patrol watch list.

Barthuly said his department works cooperatively with Community
Development to ensure that buildings that are supposed to be vacant
remain vacant.

“We’re very happy with the community,” Barthuly said. “They tell you when
something’s going on, and we can take steps to make it safe.”

Copyright © 2004 Gannett Wisconsin Online

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