Flooding Cleanup

Mud is seen caked across the parking lot outside La Hacienda and Golden Wok Buffet in September 2018. City officials said the building now poses a sanitary hazard, and the city commission gave building owner Mark Samarrai a deadline of Dec. 1 to clean or remove the building.

Plans to raze the building that formerly housed La Hacienda and Golden Wok Buffet restaurants are now on hold after the Manhattan City Commission gave the property owner three months to clean up or remove the building.

Exactly a year after the Labor Day flooding destroyed several businesses near Wildcat Creek in west Manhattan, city administrators came to the commission Tuesday with a request to declare the building on the east side of the Plaza West Shopping Center at 3003 Anderson Ave. as dangerous and unsafe and impose a Nov. 1 deadline for repair or removal.

City officials told the commission they sent several notifications to owner Mark Samarrai but hadn’t received any response. Several inspections in the year since the flooding found mold, mud, insects and several broken or missing windows, in addition to rotting food that had been left behind.

Darren Emery, deputy building official, said the structure posed an attractive nuisance to children and vagrants. He said in the event of a fire, firefighters would also face increased risk due to the collapse of fire-resistant walls inside the structure.

However, at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Samarrai said he has been in the hospital sporadically for quite a while with a medical condition that he did not identify. He said he wasn’t supposed to make it out of the hospital, but he had been working with a crew to begin cleanup when the city posted a notice to vacate on the building, which Samarrai said prevented him from finishing work. He also said the building’s previous tenants have been uncooperative in removing leftover materials and in returning keys.

As far as vandalism at the property, Samarrai said he had asked Riley County police officers to keep an eye on the building, but they declined, saying it’s not their responsibility. Since the parking lot is owned by a different person, Samarrai said he has no control over night lighting around the building, which he said contributes to vandalism.

“It takes its toll,” Samarrai said. “I’m sorry to you all again about the embarrassment of this property. I was told it was being mowed, and I was paying for it to be mowed, but I finally went down there and found the grass two or three feet tall.

“I’m not supposed to go out,” Samarrai continued. “I’m not even supposed to be standing right now, but I’m willing to lose the foot and whatever to get it fixed. I’m not looking for pity, I’m just going to do my job.”

He said he didn’t specifically blame the commission for the flooding or rain that caused it, but the city had allowed too much development along the creek’s basin, which contributed to the flooding.

Emery said that the current order only requires that Samarrai clean or remove the building by the deadline, but any future rebuilding efforts would require that the building be elevated or made floodproof. Samarrai said he only plans on cleaning the building.

The commission voted unanimously to give Samarrai an additional month in their deadline of Dec. 1 to clean or remove the building.

Should Samarrai fail to meet that deadline, the city would then be able to raze the building and bill Samarrai for that expense.