By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: It's a news story too complex to tell

Often – more often than you might think – reporters hear compelling stories that are too complex or too time-consuming to pursue.

Some such stories exceed staffing capacity; some lack any public record basis to build around; some are guaranteed to draw “no comment” responses from involved individuals or institutions.

One such example came this week from long-time McMinnville resident Michelle Edwards, whose multi-layered housing quagmire over the past two years left her searching for help.

Eleven years ago, Michelle purchased a vintage house on NE 14th Street, now long known for entertaining passers-by with elaborate holiday decorations. That passion drew a 2016 newspaper feature story about Michelle and her house; later that year, we published a feature about involvement with rescue animals for Michelle and her five adopted nieces and nephew.

In 2020, health and resulting financial challenges led Michelle into a spiral of housing-related issues. As she tells the story:

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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First was a helpful mortgage subsidy from the Housing Authority of Yamhill County, then a need for special housing accommodation work under a HAYC loan/lien program. Michelle hired a contractor for the $17,000 in approved work, then accepted a different contractor recommended by HAYC. Long story short, project problems led to basement flooding, major repair work, and now a $52,000 lien on the property accompanied by fears of future flooding.

That repair period put Michelle beyond the time limit for a complaint to the Construction Contractors Board. Her situation didn’t match any avenues for assistance from HAYC or the county government; Legal Aid Services of Oregon declined representation in what was seen as a muddy case; independent legal services were beyond Michelle’s financial means.

Someone suggested a newspaper story might draw attention and perhaps even assistance, so Michelle reached out to our staff. The response headed her way is that this is not a news story with an accessible public record base, or one that fits into our limited investigatory capacity.

In other words, we are responding with a variation of what Michelle has heard at every level of her search for assistance: We’re sorry, but we just don’t think we can help.

I drove by that 14th Street house late Wednesday afternoon, thinking about the apology we had to give. The Halloween decorations are still up, with Thanksgiving displays soon to follow.

And, who knows? Maybe just outlining one side of this story will help trigger more positive responses to Michelle Edwards.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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