City won’t drop lien for razing eyesore

Mayor breaks tie on 3-3 split vote
Reporter Editor

With the city council split right down the middle on a philosophical difference, Mayor Larry Jones cast the tie-breaking vote Monday, denying a request that the city forgive a lien placed on property where a dilapidated home was recently torn down.

The 4-3 vote also originally defeated an attempt to create a procedure for forgiving liens on a case-by-case basis where a structure has been demolished, or property mowed, at city taxpayer expense.

But later in the City Hall session, the proposal was resurrected, as a different agenda item, and this time the procedure passed on a 3-2 vote.

That, however, didn’t af fect the original lien request, which was still denied.

LIEN—City Manage Kelvin Knauf said a potential buyer wants to purchase a lot at 813 Ackerman where the city recently razed a dilapidated structure.

Knauf said it is up to city policy to place a lien in such cases and attempt to recoup the money spent—$2,000 in this instance—in tearing down the structure or cleaning up a lot.

He said the potential buyer has asked the lien be waived.

Councilwoman Melanie Dawson supported the request, and also asked for a policy to be created giving the city discretion to waive liens.

Dawson said she knows the property in question. “There were concerns over mosquitoes, snakes and flooding,” she said. “The current (out-of-town) owner has no intention of ever returning.”

“Now, we have someone who wants to work with us to keep the city clean,” she said. “We say we want to beautify Rockdale, but we’re not helping our citizens to do that.”

A differing view was offered by Councilman Doug Calame. “I strongly disagree with giving away tax money, taxes paid by all citizens, to benfit one,” he said. “Why can’t they (the buyer) just go ahead and pay the lien?”

Jones said one of the first things he learned in preparation for the job of mayor was “it’s not legal to spend public funds to enhance private enterprise, unless it’s through an entity like the Municipal Development District.”

City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl recommended the city not waive the lien, that such an action would be “giving away something of value.”

Dawson said she believed the improvements planned by the new ow ner would constitute “something of value.”

SPLIT VOTE—Knauf said t here are cur rent ly 13 liens against Rockdale properties in which the city has either demolished structures or mowed and cleaned up lots.

Lehmkuhl said in addition to the $2,000 lien, the city also spent an estimated $ 500 to $1,000 in the process involved in leading up to the demolition.

She sa id t he cit y had t he option to foreclose and assume ownership of the property, but that would involve even more expense.

After a lengthy discussion, Dawson made a motion to forgive the lien and institute a waiver procedure policy.

Dawson, Councilwoman Toby Johnson and Councilman Willie Phillips voted in favor.

Calame and council members Colby Fisher and Joyce Dalley voted “no.”

The 3-3 split then went to the mayor for a deciding vote. “I’ll vote to follow the recommendation of our city attorney,” Jones said.

TRYING AGAIN—But later in the session, the question of establishing a waiver procedure policy came up again.

For a second time, Dawson made a motion that such a policy be established. Knauf, Lehmkuhl and Mayor Jones all asked the council to refrain from establishing such a policy.

This motion, which did not include an up or down vote on the individual request concerning the Ackerman Street property, passed 3-2, with Dawson, Johnson and Dalley voting in favor, Calame and Fisher against.

Phillips had already left the meeting.

Dalley, who appeared to changed her position from the first vote, told The Reporter she didn’t want to grant the waiver requested Monday but had no problem with establishing a procedure for the public to request such waivers.

RV ORDINANCE—The council accepted for study a recommendation by the Planning & Zoning Commission to adopt an ordinance regulating parking recreational vehicles (RVs) in the city limit.

The council discussed fine tuning the ordinance—including questions over the definition of “storage” and time limitations on street parking—then tabled action pending more study.

PAT TER SON CEN TER— Knauf said in an attempt to generate more use of the Patterson Civic Center during the week, the city recommended cutting rental fees in half Monday through Thursday.

“Most of the use is on the weekends,” he said.

Also proposed was a $25 fee on rental of the center’s sound system. “Some groups who rent don’t even use the sound system,” Knauf said.

Rental fees compose a variety of options depending on how much of the building is used for how long, but Knauf said the fee for one-half the building for one-half day, Monday through Thursday, would drop from $250 to $125.

The new fee schedule, including the sound system rental fee, was adopted unanimously.

In other business, the council:

• Held the annual Drinking Water Qualit y Report public hearing. Councilwoman Dawson called attention to an entry believed to be a typographical error.

• Named Tassie Pendleton to the Municipal Development District board and re-appointed the current Building Standards Commission board, which has two vacancies.

• Heard a presentation from the Texas Department of Transportation on upcoming highway projects in Milam County. Main project in the near future will be transforming US 190/Texas 36 from Cameron to the Bell County line into a “super two” highway with alternate passing lanes.

• Okayed purchase of t wo “motor savers” for the recently refurbished Airport Water Wells.

• Delayed action on ex tra monthly regular council sessions until the November meeting.

• Discussed future plans to install restrooms and a drinking water fountain at Sumuel Park.

• Considered consulting with an independent source to evaluate and develop a training policy for the City Public Works Department.

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