Council approves purchase of downtown buildings

Image: Italy Community Center Site

Italy Community Center Site

The Italy City Council approved two resolutions authorizing the Italy Economic Development Corporation to go forward with the purchase of two pieces of property in the downtown area. This occurred at the council’s monthly meeting Monday evening.

Elmerine Bell and Mark Stiles, IEDC members, addressed the council and urged the approval of the resolutions which would authorize the purchase of the property at 101 East Main, formerly known as the McConnell Furniture Store for $50,000 and the property at 108 E. Main, formerly known as the clothes closet, for $15,000.

The 2010 appraised value for the property at 101 E. Main is $49,390 and sits on 0.172 acres and the appraised value for the property at 108 E. Main is $18,950 and consists of .057 acres according to records with the Ellis County Appraisal District.

The council tabled both items at the July City Council meeting until the city could acquire a building inspection on both properties.

Stiles said the IEDC’s initial plans were to purchase the property at 108 E. Main and tear down that building along with the building at the corner of Main Street and Harpold Street and construct a new community center using any materials and bricks that might be salvageable.

Stiles said the immediate plans of the IEDC is to get a community center built and operational that could accommodate weddings, senior gatherings, parties, political forums, etc.

The catch is, Stiles said, the McConnell family will not sell just one piece of property — it is both properties or no sale.

Stiles said the IEDC could use the property at 101 E. Main as an incentive to bring businesses to the community.

Rough estimates indicate it could take more than $225,000 to bring the building up to code. Stiles explained that the IEDC would not spend that kind of money on the building but would own the property should they find a business interested in moving into the community.

Council member Rodney Guthrie argued that the city/IEDC must move immediately once a sale is closed due to the deterioration of the building at 108 E. Main and the damage being done to the property on the east side of the building.

He said the city will become liable once the property is purchased and said there was “too much unknown” noting that the IEDC has not gone out for bids for the demolition of the buildings.

The motion to purchase both pieces of property passed with Guthrie voting against the purchase.

In other business, Robbie Jones addressed the council regarding a water line that runs through her backyard.

Jones said she and her husband want to build an in-ground swimming pool at 913 Genoa and discovered a six-to-eight inch water line running through the backyard. She said it did not matter whether this was the builder or city’s mistake; the line needs to be moved in order to proceed with the pool installation.

Additionally, she said a power line crosses 30 feet into the backyard and said a power line cannot run over a body of water. Jones said she met with an Oncor representative who said a new pole could be set along the easement at the back of their property and the line could be relocated to that pole.

Jones said she understood that it takes time to get things moved but urged the city to get the line relocated and water line moved with six months.

Dean Carrell, public works director, said there are legal concerns on both sides of the issue but said the city can relocate the line.

Jones asked the council to have a response for her by the next city council meeting.

The council approved the update of three ordinances.

Ordinance 10-0809-01 replaces two ordinances dealing with nuisance. The new ordinance deals with regulating high weeds, grass, brush and other objectionable material.

Mark Souder Sr., council member, objected to a portion of the ordinance dealing with “junk.”

He said his definition of junk does not necessarily conform to the “junk” description in the ordinance. “Junk is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.

City attorney Ed Voss said this is the standard definition of junk.

The council approved the ordinance with Souder voting against it.

A second ordinance, 10-0809-02, also replaced an ordinance already in place. Teri Murdock, city secretary, said this ordinance deals specifically with abandoned and junked vehicles.

The last ordinance, 10-0809-03, establishes various city fees and charges.

Murdock said many fees remain the same while others items increased to cover actual costs involved.

The ordinance includes the cost of copies, notary service, animal registration, garage sale permits, peddler registration, credit card use, variance request, platting fees and re-platting fees. Water fees are also included in the ordinance – fees for late charges, returned checks, water disconnect, water deposit, water tap and sewer tap. Rental charges for use of city facilities, mowing fees and ordinance violation fees are also a part of the document.

Souder again voted against the ordinance.

Department reports
C.V. Johns, police chief, presented the report for July. Officers made eight arrests, worked and/or trained for a total of 1,687 hours and were called to service 90 times. The warrant officer served two warrants. The animal control officer worked 11.5 hours and received eight calls to service, issued four citations and two warnings. The code enforcement officer received six complaints and issued warnings on all of them. The officer found 31 other enforcement concerns and issued 14 verbal and 17 written warnings.

Manuela Martin, municipal court clerk, said the police department issued 204 citations in July and cleared five warrants.

Carrell told the council that Bowman H20 no longer works with the city. He said the last bill received from the firm charged the city more than $3,000 for the month although the original contract is for $1,500.

The new public works director said he has done an assessment on the sewer plant and will have a report for the council at the next meeting.

Murdock said there would be a budget workshop within the next few weeks.

Other business
Jay Gonzales asked the council, during citizen’s comments, about exchanging a piece of property at Upchurch Field.

He told the council that they agreed to the property swap in June of 2009. He had a survey done and presented it to the council in August of 2009.

“Can I build my fence or do I keep on waiting?” he asked the council. “If so, how long do I have to wait?”

Because he was not on the agenda, Mayor Frank Jackson said the council could not address the issue in the meeting.

“But it’s been over a year,” Gonzales reiterated.

The council tabled two items – one dealing with a building code issue from Bob Powers and the other choosing an engineer for city projects and grants.

The council approved minutes of the July 12 and 15 meetings, with a correction, approved bills and earned compensatory time.