Building Authority sets path for cleaning up controversial house

Seven-step plan will start with scraping and painting. Use for house still not decided.

Laketown Township will be giving a controversial house a facelift this summer while it decides what to ultimately do with the facility.

Some residents were frustrated that money is being spent on the house many want to see demolished.

The Laketown Township Building Authority on Monday, May 1, agreed to a seven-step outline to handle the 1939 house at Huyser Farm Park, 4158 64th St., that includes painting the exterior and adding security cameras.

“We’re getting this to a point where we can do something with this for a nominal cost,” said authority Chairperson Tom Shuff.

House history

The house was donated to the township in 2001 along with 102 acres by Manuel and Lilah Huyser, both of whom passed away. The house has been unoccupied for more than 20 years and the township Parks and Recreation Commission has been unable to come up with a use for it. The home has been vandalized and has fallen into disrepair.

The township building inspector reported in March that the foundation and frame of the home are in excellent condition, but any repairs need to be started in the next 12 months.

On March 15, the parks commission transferred responsibility of the house to the three-member Building Authority with a six-month deadline to find a use for the structure or tear it down.

That decision sparked emotional responses from residents at the time, some of whom called the parks commissioners cowards and untrustworthy.

Authority action and reaction

At Monday’s meeting, the Building Authority agreed to secure and stabilize the site, improve the exterior appearance, consider potential uses for the house, determine and make necessary improvements then release the project.

Township Manager Al Meshkin, a Building Authority member, said he is investigating the installation of security cameras on the property to prevent vandalism.

The authority also approved using a team from Escape Ministries of Holland to scrape and paint the home’s exterior, trim landscaping and empty the basement. Overall cost is expected to be $5,000 for the labor and another $3,000 to $5,000 for materials and other needs, according to Meshkin.

Four youth and one adult from Escape will work on the property three days a week from July 5 through Aug. 4.

The mission of Escape Ministries is to intervene in the lives of those who fall between the cracks of society and help them successfully navigate to a positive life experience through meaningful, Gospel-rooted relationships, according to the group’s website.

Meshkin has also heard from several contractors who want to help with the project.

“This could end up being a real big community project,” he said.

Some of the more than a dozen residents at the Building Authority meeting were upset the authority hasn’t found a use for the house yet.

One resident said there are plenty of 1940s-era farmhouses in the township and this one is not special. Another said the township is wasting money on the house. Another said the Escape Ministry workers should be used to clear sand off the beach stairs instead of working at the Huyser property.

The next meeting of the Building Authority has not yet been set.