City council focuses on nuisance properties

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Nuisance properties were in Portales City Councilors’ gun sights Tuesday as they heard a report from planning director Sammy Standefer detailing emergency action recently taken on property located at East Amazon and North Knoxville.

The abandoned property near Portales High School had been attracting students. Evidence that fires had been built in one of the three buildings on the property along with the general condition concerned city officials.

When attempts to contact the property owner were unsuccessful, Standefer said the city took action to abate the nuisance by boarding up the buildings.

Standefer and Mayor Orlando Ortega said that property is the tip of the iceberg and showed councilors a slide show of examples of other nuisance properties around town they feel need attention from the owners.

Standefer told the council he was looking for its priorities on which areas to work on first, noting that he can’t take on everything at once.

“If we don’t take action on this as a council and get tough on this, it’s just going to get worse and worse,” Ortega said.

Ortega noted that several of the properties in the slide show were close to schools but that there was also a big need downtown as well. He mentioned the possibility of downtown buildings creating a fire hazard similar to a catastrophic fire downtown that occurred in 1978.

City Manager Debi Lee said her worries centered around how the city should proceed in getting problems with nuisance properties resolved.

“We’ve got to have a rationale of why we’ve selected those properties,” Lee said.

Standefer told the council that some of the property owners who had been contacted in August with code problems still hadn’t shown action toward resolving them. He said they had responded saying they would try to make the required fixes by December, Standefer said, but he was doubtful. He told council he would likely be back in a month with a resolution for the council asking further action abating the problems.

“I personally feel like you’re on the right track, starting around the schools and then the parks,” Councilor Ron Jackson said.

Portales Public Works Director Tom Howell gave councilors a report on the water department’s plan to install valves in the 24-inch water lines to avoid a problem similar to one in February when a major water main break caused the entire city water system to be shut down for a day.

Howell said that Smith Engineering had been selected to assist with the project, which will map the city’s water lines on a CAD (computer assisted drawing) system. Once that is done, the engineers will be able to recommend where shut-off valves should be installed.

“Our long-term goal in the water department is to have a valve in every T and cross so we don’t have to shut down a big area,” Howell said.

“We’re taking a little more time, but we’re trying to get as accurate a map as possible.”