A vote on the latest city condemnation list that was presented Aug. 8 to the El Dorado City Council led to a discussion about issues that have previously arisen about the matter.
Council Member Andre Rucks voted no on the proposed resolution to condemn 11 properties, including:
• 404 Liberty; Baby Ray Robinson; dilapidated, unsafe and obnoxious.
• 2217 Nevada; Billy Perry; obnoxious and unsafe.
• 712 Nelson; Ajeunesse W. Traylor; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 1223 and 1235 N. Gray; Jonathan Moree; obnoxious and unsanitary.
• 1120 N. Miles, Tonya Antoinette Cooper, of Forney, Texas; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 1511 E Ave.; Jaqueline Armstrong; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 1218 Texas; Tajuan Willis, of Camden; dilapidated, obnoxious, unsafe and unsanitary.
• 1225 Mattocks Lane, Victor Moody; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 2011 E. Cook; Sharmon D. Rester; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 1410 N. Miles; Michael Pollard, of Tulsa; dilapidated and unsafe.
• 1414 N. Miles; Helen B. Gafford, c/o Helen Pollard; Tulsa; dilapidated, obnoxious and unsafe.
After City Attorney Henry Kinslow read the resolution, Council Member Willie McGhee reminded the group that Council Member Andre Rucks had requested that proposed condemnation resolutions be accompanied by photos of the properties.
“We used to do that,” McGhee said.
Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer apologized for not making the photos available, telling the council that Code Enforcement Officer Santana Parlor, who was not able to attend the meeting, would be back in City Hall the following day.
The mayor also noted that proposed resolutions, ordinances, agendas, etc., are provided to council members in packets in advance of regular council meetings.
Council Member Dianne Hammond agreed, saying that upon receiving the lists, she drives by the properties to evaluate their condition.
“I have no doubt that they need to be torn down because that’s what we put our trust in code enforcement for this,” Hammond said.
She added that printing out photos for the full council “would be extremely costly” and she said council members may stop by the city Code Enforcement office “a few minutes early” to review photos that are available there.
“I think he was just asking because we have had a few discrepancies with some of these things,” McGhee pressed, referring to Rucks.
“We’re not pointing fingers and saying nobody’s doing a good job. We’re not saying we don’t trust (Code Enforcement Officer Kirby Craig and Parlor) or what they’re doing. He just made that request,” McGhee continued. “And I remember Mr. Craig said it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Council Member Paul Choate suggested that the photos be sent digitally and several council members agreed, with Hammond adding, “That was my point.”
Smith-Creer offered a clarification, saying that city officials previously discussed that the photos would be available in City Hall and that code enforcement officers would make them available for viewing.
“I know the question was asked. I know that we said we could do it. I apologize that it’s not in this particular stack but we will rectify that and make sure that however they need to be attached, we will make sure you all can get them,” the mayor said.
Council Member Billy Blann noted that El Dorado addresses were listed for seven of the 11 property owners whose appeared in the resolution.
“I know it’s not worth our time to chase down the deeds but wouldn’t it be worth it to knock on the door of the owner and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to tear this building down. You’ve already got the (certified) letter …,” he said.
Kinslow then cut in, saying that such a process takes some time and property owners are notified about pending condemnations and given an opportunity to bring properties up to code or explore other options prior the council passing condemnation resolutions.
Blann continued his statement, “Well, OK, and say, ‘Hey, would you sign over this to the city or give it to the city?’”
Kinslow said that unless a property is in a “very specific location, we don’t want it.”
Blann, McGhee and Rucks contended that properties are torn down after they are condemned, leaving abandoned lots that become overgrown and unsightly around the city.
“The city of Little Rock, as I’ve said every year here for 30-something years, owns thousands of lots and they have to keep them up,” Kinslow said. “So that’s why we don’t want the lot, unless the (El Dorado Water Utilities) wants to put a pump station there or the fire department needs it.”
“I don’t know. Maybe the neighbor wants to buy it or maybe we can give it to the neighbor,” Blann shot back.
Smith-Creer said the city would have to develop a process by which residents who are interested in adopting or purchasing such lots may do so.
McGhee previously formed a Property Development Committee to evaluate properties that are presented for condemnation to see if they can be rehabbed or if there are any interested buyers.
The committee has been dormant for several months.
“I guess I’m just looking ahead, but if you had four or five, six or eight of these in a row, you’d have a couple of acres of property,” Blann said.
The council then approved the resolution, with Rucks casting the lone no vote.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or [email protected]