Mi Tierra cleanup may take awhile

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It may be two months before the city would be able to begin cleanup on the Mi Tierra businesses destroyed in the Jan. 15 fire.

The Maria Leon property at 600-606 North Main St. has been deemed a public nuisance and health hazard. City officials and downtown merchants have reported complaints about people climbing into the property and rodents around the area.

No action was taken after Leon received notice that the area must be cleaned up.

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The city has contracted with a pest control services to trap rats at the site.

“There’s been numerous discussions with Dan Wilson, the fire chief; the owner of the property; and the owner’s attorney to get this mess cleaned up,” said Craig Hoium, community development director, during a city council work session Monday.

The city is required to advertise for bids before cleanup can begin. Tom Dankert, director of administrative services, said he does not have an estimate for how much cleanup could cost.

Leon would be billed for the city’s work; if she does not pay, it would be assessed. If that is not paid, the tax forfeiture process could be lengthy, Dankert said.

City administrator Jim Hurm said the cleanup could begin in a minimum of 60 days.

“It’s already falling out into the street,” council member Marian Clennon said.

The council discussed installing a fence in the meantime, but such a structure could potentially cause more problems if someone were to fall trying to scale the fence.

Several of the council members said they want to expedite the cleanup process if at all possible.

“I hate to wait 60 days,” council member Steve King said.

“It is an arson investigation and you are dealing with different property owners,” council member Jeff Austin pointed out.

Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm said the cleanup is not affected at this point by the arson investigation.

Other property owners at the site — Top Ten Nails and Marty’s R-C Hobbycraft — are in the process of preparing for cleanup. Top Ten has scheduled work beginning this week, and Marty’s is in discussions.

The city council will obtain cost estimates and discuss the cleanup again during its regular meeting May 4.