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Sam Jennings cited by city

Sam Jennings Co., a downtown Medford fixture for almost 100 years, got slapped with a $250 citation Tuesday after Medford officials spent nine months warning its owner to remove parts stored on a nearby parking lot.

“They wrote me a ticket and said they would come back every week to give me another ticket,” said Dan Reisinger, whose family owns the truck and heavy equipment repair shop at the corner of Riverside Avenue and East Fourth Street.

Because of a separate complaint, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an inspection of the company in April.

The city initially notified Reisinger in September 2015 that he needed to remove parts stored on a lot at Third and North Apple streets adjacent to Riverside Avenue. Sam Jennings has had a few run-ins with city officials after complaints were received about “unsightly” equipment being stored at the business, as well as other issues.

After he got the ticket, Reisinger cleaned up the lot at Third and Apple, and he said he got the impression from a code enforcement officer that he couldn’t store anything on the property. As a result, he’s moved the parts, including a water tank, onto the lot with the Sam Jennings building, also known locally as “The Alamo.”

“It sounds almost ridiculous that I can’t park a pickup on it,” Reisinger said.

But Medford police Sgt. Don Lane said Reisinger, in fact, could park pickups on the Third and Apple lot provided they’re operational.

Reisinger said he's puzzled why he’s getting conflicting stories from city officials about what he can place on his property. He said he may park construction equipment, which he said is operational, on the lot.

Lane said the property is zoned community commercial, and storing vehicle parts on it is not compliant with code.

Lane said the city has been working with Reisinger since last September after a local resident lodged a complaint about the parts.

“He removed a couple of things and added a couple of things,” Lane said. “We’re kind of at a loss of what to do with Dan.”

If Reisinger removes the parts from the lot, Lane said he would ask for the citation to be dismissed after conducting an inspection.

Lane said he met with city planning officials to see whether there was some way for Sam Jennings to be “grandfathered” in to allow storing the parts on the lot but discovered it wasn’t possible.

The city began receiving complaints about the Sam Jennings property in 2013, about the time the city built Pear Blossom Park and the Lithia headquarters was completed. Mayor Gary Wheeler acknowledged in 2013 that he had filed one of the complaints.

Tim Jackle was one of four councilors Reisinger contacted about his dilemma recently. Jackle said he wasn’t familiar with the details of the code issues.

“I’m going to look into this and find out what’s going on,” Jackle said.

Jeff French, service manager at Sam Jennings, said Oregon OSHA also paid the business a visit recently.

“OSHA came out about a week before and took air samples,” French said. “They said we’re good — no asbestos.”

Aaron Corvin, spokesman for Oregon OSHA, said he could only confirm that an inspection of the Sam Jennings facility is underway and that it could take up to six months to conclude.

“We’re not allowed to get into details of an inspection,” he said.

Corvin said the inspection was triggered by a complaint received against Sam Jennings, though the name of the individual is not disclosed.

In general, Oregon OSHA investigates workplace safety and health issues. The process can include equipment inspections, reviews of training protocols, interviews with company officials and taking air and other samples to determine what workers are being exposed to, Corvin said.

Started in 1923 at another location near Main Street, Sam Jennings moved the business in either the late 1920s or early '30s to its current site. When the building was completed in 1927, it was owned by Scotty and Mac Matheny, who started Medford Auto Wrecking Co. In 1936, F.E. Samson Feed moved into part of the building.

Faced with so many complaints, Reisinger last year put all six properties downtown up for sale for $1.8 million. He said the city has purchased a number of lots in the area, including a portion of the former Red Lion Hotel.

“Maybe they want to buy our property,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Dan Reisinger, who owns Sam Jennings Co. with his family, points out equipment he moved after the city gave him a ticket. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch