Built in 1965, the Cinderella Motel at 623 W. Kickapoo Spur was the place to stay in Shawnee for decades.

Built in 1965, the Cinderella Motel at 623 W. Kickapoo Spur was the place to stay in Shawnee for decades.

But after being closed and abandoned for several years now, the former 88-room motel is a far cry from what it was in its heyday.

A few boarded up windows, weeds and building disrepair are evident from the outside, along with posted stickers declaring, “Danger,” saying “this structure is declared unsafe for human occupancy or use.”

Earlier this month, Shawnee firefighters extinguished a fire inside the enclosed courtyard pool area, which filled the motel with smoke.

According to a Shawnee police report, a woman, who told police she broke into the vacant building, admitted to setting the fire inside the empty pool because she couldn't find another way to get out of the motel. She indicated others could be inside, so firefighters searched every room, knowing vagrants have been inside in the past.

No one else was found during the search; the woman was arrested and has been charged with second-degree arson.

Some windows at the former motel have been broken and are now boarded up, but inside, many of the rooms reportedly still have beds and other furnishings.

Although firefighters contained the fire, it could have been a dangerous situation for the woman and firefighters.

“The safety of our firefighters, along with the safety of anyone else that may have made their way into this building, is very concerning for us,” Deputy Fire Chief Andy Starkey said. “It was obvious that there have been people staying in the building. Our city code enforcement department has been making every attempt they can to keep this building secure. Unfortunately, people are still finding ways to break into the building.”

Starkey said their main objective at any fire is to rescue any occupants.

“In vacant structures like the Cinderella, we have no way of knowing if there are people in the building or not, so we always have to operate as if there could be,” he said. “This puts our firefighters in dangerous situations that could possibly be avoided.”

While fire crews really haven't had fire calls at the abandoned property, he said the recent incident and increased foot traffic in that area is a concern, especially knowing we are going into the winter months.

“Due to the size of the building, it is very difficult to search the entire building in a timely manner, which greatly decreases the chances of survivability of any victims,” he said. “The condition of the building is also very concerning due to the fact that is has been vacant for so long and therefore has not had any life-safety inspections performed by our personnel.”

Based on public records, it appears the former motel and owners have been involved in a complicated legal case that is ongoing, leaving the fate of the property in a state of uncertainty.

City of Shawnee Community Development Director Justin DeBruin said the property is not in condemnation, but the city's primary focus has been boarding, securing, and police enforcement at the property when necessary.

DeBruin said he is in the process of attempting to follow-up with the listed property owner.

Records show the city has placed numerous monetary liens on the vacant property for mowing and securing it, but that's just the beginning of the property's long-standing debt and other issues.

According to Pottawatomie County Assessor Troyce King, the Cinderella building, which sits on 2.43 acres at Kickapoo Spur and Pottenger, was last valued at $339,342 back in 2013, plus another $34,000 for a vacant lot there.

Before a water leak years ago decreased the property's assessed value, it had been worth about $550,000, King said.

Pottawatomie County tax rolls list the property's owner as Shayona Investments LLC out of Texas. The annual taxes, which were just over $5,000 in 2016 and about $3,913 for 2017, still haven't been paid.

Property taxes were paid in 2015, but there are nuisance taxes still owed for that year and for every year since, such as $130 liens entered here and there for the city mowing the property, said Pottawatomie County Treasurer Wendy Magnus.

If taxes aren't paid after four years, Magnus said a property can be put up for a tax sale for payment of taxes, interest, fees and any other liens.

But in addition to all of those things, this property has a court judgment on file and is reportedly still involved in an ongoing court case as well.

The Pottawatomie County Clerk's Office, which records land deeds, shows there is a civil court judgment against the property for $855,057.91, said Deputy County Clerk Alana Coon.

Records list a 2016 foreclosure as well as a mechanics lien of $26,218.22 for asphalt and striping work done back in 2005, she said.

And while there are many complicated financial issues involved with this property, there are many unanswered questions on who is responsible for all of it.

“The city code enforcement department always has the ability to condemn a dilapidated structure and have the building demolished if it isn’t brought up to city codes in a reasonable time,” Starkey said. “But from what I understand, the Cinderella building is going through some complicated legal proceedings to determine ownership and responsibility for this building.  This, along with the estimated price of $75,000 to demolish this building, further complicates this situation.”

Starkey does advise those who live and work around the Cinderella to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities.

Watch for more details and updates in a future story.