News

Building owners plan renovation

City commission orders demolition of Cameo Insurance
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


Building owner Gloria Thrasher wants to preserve the downtown structure. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Building owner Gloria Thrasher wants to preserve the downtown structure. Reporter/Mike Brown Rockdale’s Building Standards Commission says the Cameo Insurance Building is dangerous and has to come down but its owners want to renovate and preserve the historic structure.

On a 3-0 vote, with two abstentions, the commission gave owner Gloria Thrasher 14 days to “secure” the former Cameo Insurance Building, then 60 days to demolish it.

Thrasher, and son Richie who is overseeing the project, say a structural inspector has given them the green light to proceed with a renovation.

Gloria Thrasher said she only acquired full legal ownership of the building from the Norman and Deborah Stout estate two days prior to last Wednesday’s commission meeting.

On Monday, the Thrashers brought the structural engineer to town to look at the building, damaged Aug. 29-30, 2012, and meet with city officials.

“Rockdale doesn’t need another ‘hole’ downtown, and that’s what it would be if this building is torn down,” Richie Thrasher said. “You can either have a hole, maybe a couple, or you can get some businesses back.”

COMPLEX—The Cameo Building, 113 East Cameron (US 79), was the most heavily damaged of five buildings in the city block when a 125-year-old firewall fell.

For the past seven months the matter has been tied up in legal questions over who owns the building. At the February city council meeting, Mrs. Thrasher said the building’s actual owner was deceased and she was dealing with the surviving spouse.

That situation was resolved just in time for the Building Standards Commission to rule on the matter last Wednesday.

After hearing testimony from Lon Williams, city code enforcement officer, who said the day of the collapse he, along with police and the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department, determined the building was dangerous and ordered it closed up and electrical service removed.

Williams said he believes the building is still dangerous. Third-party contractor Gerald Marinik agreed.

Panel members Richard Henderson, Clifford Bartlett and Nathan Bland voted in favor of demolition while Elmo Miller and Trent Wages abstained.

The commission issued written orders to secure and demolish the building after ruling it was in dangerous condition.

The brick firewall fell on the building’s roof, collapsing it.

“The walls did not fall,” Richie Thrasher said. “All of the damage happened when the roof fell and that was only in the front. The rest of the building is fine.”

Thrasher said he believes an internal structure can be erected, strengthening the building. “We’re in the process of getting the plans together,” he said.

APPEALS—The next step would be an appeal before the city council.

After that the matter could end up in district court.

City Manager Kelvin Knauf told The Reporter he could not comment on the situation as the appellate process was ongoing. “I’ll be glad to comment after it’s been resolved,” he said.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Collier Perry asked the council for an update on the building situation. City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl advised the council not to make any comment because they are the appellate body for decisions made by the Building Standards Commission.

Demolitions were put on hold last spring after a Supreme Court ruling awarded $75,000 to a Dallas woman who maintained that city had not followed due process in condemning and tearing down a structure she owned.

Rockdale, and many other municipalities, instituted an appeals process to head off legal questions of that matter.

Also during last week’s Building Standards Commission, the panel issued demolition orders for a pair of fire-damaged structures at 1300 and 1304 East Cameron.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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