Cameo may get reprieve (again)!

Change in vote modifies order
Reporter Editor

The saga over the downtown Cameo Building’s fate took yet another twist Monday when the city council, which last month ordered the structure torn down, approved a plan to let owner Gloria Thrasher proceed with restoration.

But there are strict deadlines to meet and the motion, by councilman Willie Phillips, specifies if any deadline is missed the building— damaged when a 125-yearold brick firewall collapsed last Aug. 29-30—will be razed within 90 days.

Phillips was the key to the change. One month ago he voted with councilman Doug Calame to uphold the Building Standards Commission’s order to raze the building. That first-reading vote passed with Mayor John King breaking a 2-2 tie.

Mond ay ’s se c ond- re ad i ng could have finally been the end to the 11-month-long saga, and the building, had the ordinance passed unaltered.

But Calame’s motion to uphold the demolition order, died for lack of a second and Phillips offered his own, a strict schedule of actions which would let Thrasher proceed with a renovation plan.

It was seconded by Colby Fisher and passed 3-1 with Joyce Dalley also voting in favor. Calame voted against.

Councilman Nathan Bland, who was a member of the Building Standards Commission when the original decision was made, could not participate in the discussion or vote. Council member Melody Dawson was absent. Rockdale mayors only vote in case of a tie.

PERSUASION—Thrasher again pleaded that the council reverse or modify the order to raze the structure.

She noted that the pink facade facing US 79 would need to be braced and secured whatever the ultimate fate of the building.

“You’ve got to have some bracing to start with and then go in, brick where they ( bricks) have fallen out of the wall, and then you can proceed with either tearing down or replacing the building,” she said.

“If you’re going to go to all that effort, it only makes reasonable sense that you try to save the building and not just demolish what’s left,” Thrasher said.

There’s also concern about the effects of demolition on adjacent buildings which share walls with Cameo.

The matter has twice been before the Building Standards Commission, which twice ordered the building razed. Thrasher has twice appealed that decision to the city council.

Calame pointed out the building was ordered secured in March and no work has yet been done. “How come you still haven’t done that?” he asked Thrasher.

Calame made a motion to approve the commission’s order (to raze) “as presented.” It was not seconded by any other member, killing the motion.

TIMETABLE—Phillips then offered his alternate motion.

“It’s going to be braced up anyway (whether Cameo is razed or restored). It should have already been started,” he said. “I’m willing to give her until the next meeting to at least have something started.”

Phillips’ motion paralleled a scenario City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl said was considered by the Building Standards Commission but not adopted. It instructs Thrasher to:

• Reinforce Cameo’s parapet walls and outside within 14 days.

• Brace the inside walls within 21 days.

• Make the building secure and present an architectural plan to restore the building, with the approval of Rockdale’s Code Enforcement Officer, within 60 days.

If any of those deadlines is missed, the building will be ordered razed within 90 days.

City Manager Kelvin Knauf said the motion will require two readings and that the second reading could come as soon as this Monday’s (July 15) council workshop/called session.

Lehmkuhl had recommended the council not send the matter back to the Building Standards Commission for a third time, but to take some action, whether it be to approve, reject or modify.

JUDGE, JURY—Dr. Lucile Estell asked why a document in support of restoration from the Milam County Historical Commission, left by her at City Hall, was not presented to the council.

“I’ve got a real problem with not being able to communicate directly with city officials,” she said.

Lehmkuhl noted that legally, under the ordinance creating the Building Standards Commission, the council could not consider any “new evidence” in dealing with an appeal of a commission ruling.

In previous appeal hearings, persons not qualifying as “interested parties” were not permitted to address the council.

Lehmkuhl said she concurred with the decision not to present the document to the council.

“You (the council) are sitting as a judge and a jury, not just as a city council,” Lehmkuhl said. “It’s evidence you can’t hear.”

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