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Council OKs ordinance to allow demolitions

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

In response to community concerns about dozens of abandoned homes, the Lockhart City Council passed an ordinance on Tuesday evening that will allow city officials greater leeway in declaring a property a public nuisance.

The amendment to the ordinance introduces new reasons for city workers to deem a property a “nuisa

nce,” and therefore eligible for demolition. Prior to the amendment, only structural hazards were allowed to be considered for demolition by the city at the expense of the owner.

However, under the amendments passed on Tuesday, city officials may deem a structure a public nuisance if it meets any two of the following four conditions:

1. The property is not occupied and is used primarily for storage;

2. The property has not had utilities hooked up for the past five years, according to city records;

3. The meter base or meter loop does not meet current electrical code requirements; and

4. The property is boarded or otherwise secured as to block any access via the doors or windows.

After a public hearing and appeals process, properties meeting two of the four criteria may be eligible for destruction by the city.

The changes were brought about, according to Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada, who president over the meeting in the absence of Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, by complaints about more than 40 properties throughout the community which have been abandoned and are not being maintained by their owners, but which did not meet the structural criteria for demolition. The properties in question, he said, are uninhabitable, but not structurally hazardous.

Under the new guidelines, property owners will be notified of violations of the ordinance and a public hearing will be set to determine the fate of the structures. Should the city need to destroy the structures, the owners will be billed for the demolition, and liens will be filed against the properties, should those bills go unpaid.

District One Councilmember Kenny Roland said he was hopeful the passage of the amendments would encourage property owners to make improvements to buildings they have neglected in the past.

City Manager Vance Rodgers said it would be a minimum of 30 – 45 days before any properties were slated for demolition, pending proper notification of the property owners and the necessary public hearings.

In other business, the council revisited the distribution of the city’s hotel/motel tax collections as discussed during the Jan. 5, 2010, meeting.

Gene Galbraith, from the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches, offered apologies for having been ill and unable to attend the prior meeting. He requested his organization be allocated a portion of the funds, in the amount of 4.5 percent.

Additionally, Ronda Reagan, the chair of the Save the Brock Cabin Committee, made an impassioned plea to the council to consider allocation a portion of the tax fund toward the restoration of the Brock Cabin, under the premise that the cabin will drive historic tourism upon its completion.

However, Finance Director Jeff Hinson said it was not possible for the city to allocate funds to the Brock Cabin Committee, because the property is owned by the city and it is therefore not eligible for such an allocation. He said instead, if they chose to, the council could opt not to spend a portion of the money, and earmark it for the cabin.

In brief news:
The council approved a contract with Asplundh Tree Expert Company for trimming of trees around high voltage lines throughout Lockhart.

They discussed the city’s investment report for the first quarter of the fiscal year. Hinson reported the city’s investments are safe and earning suitable returns.

The city awarded a bid to Westhill Paving, of San Marcos, for gutter work along Fir Street, which Rodgers called one of the worst streets in the city, as far as drainage is concerned.

Rodgers also gave an update on the health of At Large Councilmember Richard Wieland, who has been absent from recent meetings. Rodgers said Wieland is on the mend and gaining strength daily.

The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and are televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.

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