Building cleanup in full swing

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Portales demolished its first two dangerous buildings in 2013 using the money it budgeted to tackle what city officials have labeled a public health issue.

Dangerous buildings, which are described as being a threat to public health, have been a big concern and a priority for the Portales City Council for several years.

Councilors finally used the weight they have behind a city ordinance that regulates dangerous buildings by creating a budget in 2012 to demolish or remedy buildings when owners fail to fix the problems themselves.

The budget currently has $70,000.

Portales Building Inspector Sammy Standefer said the council considers the city demolishing a building as a last resort because it wants to work with the owners.

Compared to last year, though two buildings have been demolished, Standefer said he sees relationships with the owners of these buildings getting better.

“We’re getting a lot more support from owners of properties,” he said. “They’re definitely trying to work with us.”

Last week, four new properties were brought before the city council to be declared dangerous.

Standefer said the council is asked to take action only after the owner has been notified of the dangerous conditions and failed to fix them within the time Standefer has given.

What usually precedes the notification is a report from the police about the building, such as seeing inhabitants inside who do not own or live at the property.

The properties are often abandoned, are liable to cause injury by collapsing, have no doors and windows and have graffiti written on or in the building, according to Standefer.

“Those are definitely first indicators we have to do something,” Standefer said.

Though there are more than 10 buildings in Portales that have been identified, Standefer said the city only addresses the three to four most dangerous buildings at a time.

“We pursue the ones we have the most trouble with,” Standefer said. “We don’t have the staff to tackle 10 at once.”

Standefer added the budget only allows for his staff to follow through with the small amount of buildings they work on.

The problem is councilors are concerned the owners of these buildings are given too much time to remedy the issues. Standefer said from the day the notice is given to the owner, it can take up to six months before the city can physically remedy the issues.

Councilors expressed at its last meeting that they would like to look into ways to expedite the process for buildings that may collapse before then or have had multiple complaints.

But Standefer said that may not be likely because these buildings are private property and owners are ultimately responsible to fix the problems.

“They want it to be shorter but the process is set up to give people a chance to comply,” Standefer said.

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