Bone delays construction; turns out to be animal

For several hours Tuesday, Kennewick machinist Fred Durfee worried he might be put out of business by an unexpected find on the site of his soon-to-be-built shop.

Sometime before 11 a.m., construction workers who were moving dirt and clearing the site at 214 E. Albany Ave. of decades-old debris spotted a bone sticking out of a chunk of concrete.

They immediately stopped work and called Kennewick police and the Benton County Coroner's Office in to investigate.

"I came down to see how they were doing on the dirt work -- there were police all over the place," Durfee said. "They were looking at a bone sticking out of the concrete. ... With all the delays I've had, this is one I've never counted on."

Durfee plans to build seven buildings on the roughly 3-acre site -- one to house his machinist shop, and the others to lease out to other businesses and as storage units.

He sold the Columbia Drive building where he is worked since 1973 to the Port of Kennewick and worried that if the new building was delayed he would have no place to go once he has to turn the keys to his old building over to the port.

"It looked like it was starting to go, and then this happened," he said.

But by late afternoon, police and coroner's officials determined the bone belonged to an animal, and Durfee was cleared to continue excavation at the site.

No one had answers as to how the bone ended up encased in concrete, but Durfee speculated it might have been there since the 1930s when a flour mill stood on the site.

The flour mill has been gone so long it's nearly faded from memory. Several members of the East Benton County Historical Society only had vague recollections -- most thought it burned down but didn't know when.

Bob Rupp, 95, a former Benton County sheriff, is the only one who could remember the mill operating, and he thinks it shut down in the early 1920s when he was a boy.

Durfee and members of the historical society agreed the lot had been vacant for at least 50 years -- probably more.

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said bones or bone fragments are found more often than most people might imagine.

"More often than not, it turns out to be an animal," he said.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com