Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 28, 2013

Downtown eyesore major concern

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Cleanup and renovation over the past four years has gradually removed some of the scars created by a fire at what was once Pauls Valley’s Honest Bus Pawn Shop.

However, a reminder of what has not been resolved surfaced at Tuesday’s city council meeting, focusing on the fact that remnants from the devastating blaze have for the most part continued to decay. This prompted concern from area residents like Ruth Anne Colley.

Voicing her thoughts as both a longtime resident and owner of a business downtown, The Gallery, she approached council members to see what could be done to remedy the situation.

“The heart of Pauls Valley is the downtown and the first thing they look at when they are coming to town before shopping for houses, they look at the downtown area,” said Colley, speaking first on how the boarded up windows and open parts of the building do not help the city’s image when people visit. “It’s a real concern; it makes us look pretty bad… I feel that our city buildings should be an example to other property owners to keep our spaces clean and maintained.”

Colley asked at one point if there was any way to obtain the property other than getting the current owner to give it to them in order to find a prompt way to address the mess. This generated a discussion on how a lien from the city has been on the property for 2 1/2 years now.

After City Manager James Frizell explained that over $20,000 continues to accumulate debt on the property after the city hired a construction crew to clean up and reinforce what was left, City Attorney Jay Carlton said one option may only be half a year away.

This option at the three-year mark would allow the property to be seized and put on the market through a tax sale, though Carlton and Frizell were among those who felt that debt could act as a deterrent for someone looking to get the spot cheap.

Frizell added how the city has been hesitant to buy properties like this in the past after getting burned on a similar deal during the town’s ownership of the former Alvis Hotel where a discovery of asbestos set them back around $80,000 years ago.

“I need to know those who make the decisions has the downtown area as a priority,” said Colley. “We as merchants would like to have your earnest attention to help make this a nicer place to live and move to.”

Another problem Colley brought up was where parts of the building’s decay have actually created hazards. This includes potential health problems through stray cats taking up residents there and damaging nearby properties like nearby Your Framer via water leaks and a spot she recently purchased via falling rocks next to that.

Carlton noted that while this would not result in the seizure of the property, the hazards could lead to filing of a public nuisance where the owner would be notified before the city went in and again to see how they could clean it up further.

Two other options Carlton noted could be used to actually go after getting the property would be urban renewal or imminent domain, though those historically would mean the city having some kind of use in mind to better the spot before demolition. The meeting itself ended with no action, but with a promise by those like Vice Mayor Billy Riddle to explore all options.

“We paid $20,000 to have it secured to be able to clear the U.S. Highway (77) so we have more than a $20,000 lean against it,” said Frizell, who understands frustration over the current owner’s lack of communication and willingness to solve the issue.

“If anybody else were to buy it we would drop the lien, we just can’t get him to do anything.”