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By CHARLES RICHARDS
“Mostly symbols … and some pretty vulgar words,” city manager John Godwin said Friday.
Like they did a week ago, workers from the city parks department painted over the graffiti.
“It’s kind of a nuisance to have to do it … but if they (those responsible for the graffiti) can do it, we can do it,” he said.
One person was arrested last week when a city parks employee drove up to the skate boarding park and caught the person as he was about to write something.
Godwin said it’s important to protect the city’s image by not allowing graffiti, particularly in such a visited area as the Farmers Market.
A surveillance camera will be installed soon on a nearby building and focused on the skate boarding park to deter future acts, Godwin said.
There has been talk of moving the skate-boarding park to Walker Park in west Paris or someplace else to free up space for more parking or for special purpose usage next to the Farmers Market.
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This is a view of one wing of Cherry Street Manor in the 2100 block of East Cherry Street. This former nursing home, long ago abandoned, has been ravaged by fire and vandalized by looters. It is on the list for demolition whenever the city can work it in at a probable cost of several hundred thousand dollars. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
It’s a long and seemingly unending task, but the City of Paris last month resumed the demolition of dilapidated houses and other structures – in all four quadrants of the city.
“To sum it up, we’re back in business,” Robert Talley, code enforcement supervisor for the City of Paris, said Thursday.
Sanitation Solutions, which has both the city’s demolition contract and landfill contract, tore down eight houses in June, with one more due to come down any day.
Those are the first city-ordered demolitions in Paris since June of last year.
Talley said it’s likely that more demolition work orders will be coming each month for the foreseeable future. Paris has no shortage of dilapidated and abandoned housing.
The city’s Building and Standards Commission, which issues the “demolish or else” orders to property owners, went from August of 2011 to February of 2012 without meeting, as did similar boards in other Texas towns.
A lawsuit in Dallas challenged the constitutionality of such actions by citizen boards. That was resolved this spring; local boards can order the demolitions, but citizens have procedures by which they can appeal.
“We’re in full steam with the city’s Building and Standards Commission meeting again,” said Talley, noting that a new list of properties will be going to the board every month.
The most recent demolitions in the city were the result of orders to property owners by the BSC on April 19 to demolish in 30 days “or we will.” The deadline passed in May, and eight of the properties were torn down in June.
About 25 other properties failed to comply with demolition orders issued by the BSC at its May 21 meeting, and many of them will be on the demolition work order Talley will give to Sanitation Solutions next week.
“Before I put out the next work order, I’ll probably go out (today), or maybe Monday, depending on how busy I am, and make one more drive around to make sure nothing’s changed, and take a picture of the property,” Talley said.
“We give a work order, say 150 Southeast Third Street, or whatever, to the demolition contractor and staple to the work order a picture of the house. From there, they give it to their drivers and operators, who will tear it down,” Talley said.
“I give them the order, and they tear them down as fast as they can,” Talley said.
All of the properties that go before the Building and Standards Commission are on private property. Many of them are in the names of absentee owners.
The city places a lien on the properties for the cost of the demolition and the landfill cost.
It’s hard to calculate the amount of the lien, Talley said.
“It’s all by weight. If you’re tearing down a little wooden structure that’s maybe 600 square feet, well, obviously that’s not going to cost as much as a rock structure,” he said.
“We’ve had demolitions that cost from $300 or $400, all the way up to one rock structure that we tore down on West Kaufman Street for $10,936,” he said.
The long-abandoned Cherry Street Manor in the 2100 block of East Cherry Street – is among the properties that the BSC condemned during its May 21 meeting.
Long on the radar of Paris city councils, the former nursing home over the years has been victimized by vandals and gutted by fire.
Until recently, the city was prevented from taking action because the property’s owner was being sued in federal court in Kentucky.
Mayor AJ Hashmi has said that, to control costs, he prefers to delay demolition of Cherry Street Manor until the City of Paris can get its own crew trained and certified not only for demolition but for asbestos removal.
Because of the size of the complex (about 93,000 square feet) and asbestos issues, Talley agrees it will be an expensive tear-down, compared to most other structures that come before the Building and Standards Commission.
He won’t run out of dilapidated structures to take to the board, Talley said.
There’s no shortage of dilapidated housing in Paris, Talley noted, saying hundreds of other vacant and dilapidated properties have been “red-tagged” by code enforcement.
Among the properties the Building and Standards Commission condemned in May was the Cherry Street Manor, a long-vacant nursing home in the 2100 block of East Cherry Street. Over the years, it has been victimized by fire and by vandals.
Because it will take several hundred thousand dollars to take down the 93,000-square-foot structure, the city council likely will be involved in the decision on when that one comes down.
The property has significant asbestos issues, which will run up the costs because removing asbestos requires special training.
Frustrated by the collapse in mid-January of a building downtown that had been condemned months ago, the Paris City Council recently asked Talley to supply each month an update on dilapidated structures.
“This column shows the deadline to comply with the BSC order, this column shows when the demolition order was given to Sanitation Solutions, and this column show when demolition or repair was completed,” Talley said.
“I’ve got two more houses to give them,like, right now,” Talley said. “Then they’ve got the rest of that list, however more there is. The next work order will probably be for 20 to 23 houses.”
A lot of the city’s vacant property is not substandard, Talley noted.
“But suppose lightning strikes a tree that falls right in the middle of the house. It’s beyond repair, and it just sits there. When you do the research, the owner lives out of state and nobody does anything with it.”
The fire marshal keeps him informed about fires that occur in the city.
By April 19, the Building and Standards Commission had issued “30 days to demolish” orders on the following structures:
The following came before the BSC at its May meeting and were given 30 days to demolish, or the city would do it and bill the owner:
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Oncor employees work to replace a utility pole shat was hit by a car, severing it. Power was out for about two hours in downtown. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Downtown Paris lost its power for a couple of hours on Thursday afternooon because of a vehicle accident at the intersection of Bonham and East 12th Street.
Traffic lights also were out, and police officers stood in intersections, directing tra ffic.
About 3 p.m., a driver ran into a telephone pole.
Several Oncor trucks were at the scene soon, and a new utility pole was put up.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Dr. AJ Hashmi and his family entertained about 100 people with a party in his backyard from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The mayor’s longtime friend and patient, Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan, was among the guests, along with U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall and State Rep. George Lavender.
The party ended for some just in time to drive into Paris for the annual Rotary Club fireworks show.
The mayor and his wife, Rizma, live about three miles northeast of town on FM 195.
(eParisExtra! photos by Charles Richards)
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
City manager John Godwin said Monday that the half-billion dollar “Paris Lakes” development in southeast Paris that was announced over the weekend “sounds great” and he stands ready to assist in whatever way he can.
“I don’t know the details, but I would hope the city would be involved as much as we are needed to be,” said Godwin, who was integral in bringing major retail stores to Fairview while he was town manager for the Collin County community.
Area builder Ron Parker announced over the weekend that he will start construction in November on a shopping center “with lots of restaurants” and a 125-bed hospital in a rolling, 100-acre tract on the southeast loop with two lakes and hundreds of trees.
Phase I will take about 16 months to build, at a cost of $200 million.
“Two years from now, it should be open,” Parker told eParisExtra.
Phase II will follow — a retirement village, a lighted par-3 golf course and a residential subdivision of 180 homes priced from $130,000 “up to whatever.” The price tag on Phase II is about $300 million.
“Just the idea sounds great. This would maybe get the southeast quadrant of the loop going,” Godwin said.
“I have had several conversations that seem to concentrate on the northeast loop. I ask people, ‘Have you ever looked at the southeast?’ and they say ‘No, no.’ I think this could maybe prime the pump. You build this, and maybe another center goes up nearby. If other stuff follows, that would really be huge,” the city manager said.
Steve Gilbert, executive director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, says the shopping center – which will have a 1930’s look to it — will rival any that is being built in Dallas or the north Dallas suburbs.
The PEDC has been involved in putting Parker together with executives from major retail outlets that would be a good fit for the Paris Lakes project.
Godwin said he would be glad to help also.
“I’ve got a meeting with the city manager. I’ll sit down with him. Steve is setting that up, so we’ll try to get that done. Hopefully, that comes off good. We’ll find out what can and can’t be done. It’s a very mutual thing. They want us to get going as much as we want to get going. It will be a big revenue thing for the city,” Parker said.
“I think we could do some things to help get it worked out as much as possible for both (Parker) and the city,” Godwin said. “I hope we can partner on that to help make it a successful deal.”
Before coming to work in May as Paris’ city manager, Godwin as Fairview town manager was involved in trying to win over major retail executives on locating at Fairview’s new mall rather than at shopping centers in other north Dallas suburbs.
“We were competing against McKinney with 110,000 and Allen with 80,000, and Fairview was about five or six thousand people. Those big cities just assumed it would be between the two of them,” Godwin said.
While McKinney was telling business prospects like Dillards and Whole Foods, “We’ll give you an answer in a year,” Godwin was telling them, “I’ll give you an answer today. I’ll go convince the council next week that it’s OK, but I’m going to tell you today what we can do for you.”
“To this day, I think they (McKinney and Allen) think they believe we must have bribed people or something. But it was just that same thing, ‘What do you need?’ You know, we didn’t give away the farm, but we did what we needed to do.”
While McKinney and Allen were discussing and debating, “we had already made a deal.”
The projected shopping center and hospital are on 100 acres that is in the Paris city limits. The retirement village, golf course and residential subdivision are on 400 acres to the east.
That 400 acres is not in the city limits, “but we’re trying to get it annexed. That would give them (the City of Paris and Paris Junior College) another tax base,” Parker said.
Godwin was asked if annexing the 400 acres is doable.
“It’s pretty simple, actually,” Godwin said. “Just fill out the paperwork, basically. Have a hearing, and do it by ordinance. It’s pretty easy.”
Although the development on Loop 286 is only a mile from the new Paris High School building on south Collegiate Drive, the 400 acres that’s not now in the Paris city limits is in the Prairiland Independent School District. Annexation into the City of Paris wouldn’t change that.
Parker, the 59-year-old builder who conceived the Paris Lakes project, lives about 15 miles southeast of Paris, south of the community of Detroit in western Red River County.
For most of the past 40 years, he has worked for three corporations building resorts – most of them along the 15th Parallel in places like Dubai, Nassau, Emerald Bay and St. Thomas. Room rates at those exclusive resorts are as high as $900 a night.
What he envisions for the 500 acres he bought two years ago from Dr. Ted McLemore, “is the nicest thing I’ve ever taken on as an individual,” Parker says.
“I’ve built a lot bigger stuff, but it was always somebody else’s money. I’ve put a whole lot of my own money into this thing for the past two years. This project carries a tremendous amount of pride. I want to know that it’s here, that I’ve left something behind,” Parker said.
“We’re looking to employ, just in the shopping center and hospital, somewhere near a thousand people. That doesn’t include the construction people. Just on the construction jobs, you could have 1,500 people real quick.”
That could stretch out for 15 years on the whole complex, Parker said, or it might happen in five or six years.
“But it can’t happen in less than five years. We’ve got an operator talking to us right now about a nursing center. If that development comes about, it may outrun all of it, because they want to go quick. And then the golf course and the tennis courts will follow. We’ll probably have some playgrounds and that type of thing, too.”
It won’t be the first shopping center Parker has built.
“We did the Marina Village in Nassau, which is all these restaurants and shops and stuff – 21 designer retail shops spread over 65,000 square feet,” he said.
He has agreed to do a project in Honolulu.
“It’s not a problem. I can do three or four at a time,” Parker said.
He has never bid for a project, he said.
“You know, people know what you’ve been doing all your life. I’ve just been doing hotels and resorts all along. I do the pre-construction services, kind of put things together. I determine which way to build it, the best way to build it.”
He’s had only three customers over the past 20 years.
“The Atlantis (in Nassau) and the One & Only resorts are owned by the same guy. And so for 12 years, I only did stuff for them. And of course the Ritz Carlton. That’s owned by Mr. Marriott himself, so I’m in with the Maryland group up there. I did the Doral Country Club remodel up there for them,” Parker said.
“I just know a bunch of people. I just got lucky. I don’t know if we’re good, but we sure work hard. We’re there until we’re done. We don’t leave early; we get it done,” Parker said.
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