Sides in Parker dispute claim harassment and intimidation
Recycling Services owner Dan Gaikowski has taken his dispute with the city of Parker to its residents with a sign campaign. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal) Below, one of the no-trespassing signs in question. (Submitted photo)
PARKER – More than two dozen people from the Parker area showed up at the Parker City Council earlier this month to weigh in on a situation they say is the fault of the owner of a metal salvage yard located inside Parker city limits.
In the public comment session of the Jan. 12 meeting, several of those people accused Dan Gaikowski of Recycling Services of harassment, intimidation and operating what they believe is an operation that allows toxic chemicals to be dumped on the ground.
Gaikowski, on the other hand, charged in an separate interview on Jan. 18 that city officials have been harassing him and his employees and that his operation takes steps to make sure hazardous fluids weren’t dumped in his operation.
At the council meeting, businessman Mike Page said that Gaikowski has swerved a vehicle toward his, that he ran off members of the survey crew charged with platting a city street, and had moved “no trespassing” signs onto the street.
“Who can do that?” Page asked the council. “And where can you do that?”
Page also said that Recycling Services processed hundreds of junk vehicles annually and in the process dumped oil, hydraulic oil, transmission fluid and pollutants on the ground, which could cause health concerns.
In his interview, Gaikowski disputed those concerns saying that they require all fluids to be drained from the vehicles before they are brought into the yard.
Councilwoman Kandice Higgins asked about water lines that ran through Gaikowski’s property.
Chad Page, son of Mike Page who does maintenance for the city’s water as well as Linn County Rural Water District No. 3 for the area around the city, said about 300 to 400 feet of 3-Inch line runs through Gaikowski’s property.
Mike Page pointed out that if a water leak was to occur in that vicinity, those chemicals in the soil could be drawn into the system when the water was shut off to make repairs.
The charges are the latest round in a series of events that led the city to last year begin imminent domain proceedings that would condemn a 60-foot-wide swath and give the property back to the city. Those proceedings require a survey of the affected plots, and a surveyor was hired last spring.
However, the project remained on hold after the survey company pulled off the job because of alleged lack of cooperation by Gaikowski. The proceedings got a restart last month when the council on a split vote hired another survey company.
Over the past couple of weeks, the salvage yard owner has again taken his case to the citizens of Parker with signs warning about the city’s alleged land grab.
The signs also claim that, even if the street returns to the possession of the city, it will cost the city a million dollars. Gaikowski said that because that strip of land now runs through the middle of his operation, the city will need to pay that amount in compensation for damage done to his business.
Cost has been a consideration in the city’s fight against Gaikowski. Councilwoman Jody Bloodgood in December was the sole vote against hiring the second surveyor for $15,000. She said $30,000 had been spent on the dispute so far and she didn’t want to spend any more money on a fight that could cost the city thousands of dollars more.
At the same time Gaikowski and his son, Dan Gaikowski II, have maintained that they are the ones that are being harassed.
“It’s OK for Mike to grow his business, but we’re not supposed to grow?” Gaikowski asked.
At January’s meeting, city resident Tim Griffin said he too was concerned about the cost to the city. He asked the council to provide a letter to every Parker residence detailing the costs of the dispute so far. And he also asked if former mayor Cody Adams made a deal with Gaikowski.
“Did the previous mayor vacate Walnut Street and give it to Dan?” Griffin asked. He also suggested that the trucks that deliver to the yard and haul scrap out should follow a truck route. He said that if the trucks are not following the route, those drivers should be ticketed.
Preston Harrison, pastor of the Baptist church, said that signs along the street to the entrance to the church’s driveway were intimidating. He was particularly offended by the sign that suggested that “A Good Christian Would Not Steal There Neighbors Land (sic).”
He said the church was just trying to be a good neighbor.
“We have been thrown into the fight, and I’m not sure why,” he said. “We didn’t want to cause trouble with anybody.”
Gaikowski has stationed the moveable no-trespassing signs along a street he has named “Gaikowski Drive” along side the sign targeting the church. He said that the signs are on his property, and he also charged that Mike Page had struck one of the signs with his vehicle.
“How is putting up a sign bullying?” Gaikowski said, adding that he had to replace two signs that were run down.
Page said that those who attended a recent funeral at the church felt intimidated. He also indicated that a bullet hole found in the side of the building was connected to the dispute.
Page also said that despite the salvage yard grossing “millions of dollars” annually, it paid no sales tax or any other tax that would benefit the city.
Gaikowski has been at odds with Page and members of the First Baptist Church of Parker since he stopped access to the church and one block of Walnut Street south of South Street about three years ago. That portion of Walnut Street was used by Page to access the driveway to his home, which is outside city limits.
The church has since granted Page access to his residence through its property.
At that time Gaikowski also blocked off the driveway to the church because the portion of the driveway from the street was on a strip of property he owned just north of the church’s property. After months of church members having to walk to attend services, Gaikowski eventually settled with the church and allowed its driveway to reopen.
While the section of Walnut Street south of South Street has been on city maps for decades, there were apparently no legal records that the owners were ever paid for the land. Gaikowski has used that lack of documentation to claim the property.
Parker City Attorney Burton Harding has said that it would be cheaper for the city to condemn the property by imminent domain that to try to fight what would likely be an extended court battle with no assurances of a win.