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Board puts Koozies tear-down in motion

As expected, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has voted, 3-1, to set the stage for demolition of a building on Franklin Street declared dangerous — amid indications that the property owner might respond with a lawsuit.

“I don’t think it’s right what they’re doing,” Rod Brumley of National Decon Holdings LLC said in reaction to the board’s action Thursday afternoon involving the Koozies building owned by that entity.

The stage had been set for this in February, when the commissioners voted to give National Decon Holdings, located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, 90 days to either repair the structure that is in violation of building codes or have it razed.

That decision also paved the way for the city government to have the condemned structure torn down if the owner failed to act, which officials say did not occur before or since the 90-day deadline expired on May 18.

The situation came to a head Thursday when the board voted — with Commissioner Jon Cawley dissenting (and the board’s Marie Wood absent) — to direct City Manager Stan Farmer to take steps toward achieving that end.

This will involve Farmer preparing a request for proposals from qualified and insured contractors for the demolition of the Koozies building and safe removal of all debris from the site. Koozies was the name of a private club formerly operating within those confines, but the facility has been vacate for many years and fallen into a state of major disrepair while posing a safety hazard.

A “most dangerous” structure

In objecting to the seeking of proposals from demolition contractors, Cawley questioned why two other buildings also condemned in February and included in the 90-day window aren’t being targeted in the same manner. These include the former Mittman body shop at 109 S. South St. and what is referred to as the “red building” at 600 W. Pine St. beside Worth Honda.

“It looks like to me we might be giving someone a case against us for unfair business practices,” Cawley said of the singular focus on the Koozies site.

“So why are picking out this building out of the three at this time and only acting on it?” he asked.

“From my point of view, this building is the most dangerous,” Commissioner Tom Koch responded regarding that structure, “most apt to hurt somebody, most apt to fall in the street.” He pointed out that its roof has collapsed and left a freestanding wall that possibly could fall, among other concerns.

Koch also appeared bothered by National Decon Holdings’ alleged ignoring of the order by the city and disinterest on its part in mitigating the issue. This piggybacked on a concern by Cawley about what contacts had been made with the owner by municipal representatives.

The city manager said Thursday that a certified letter was sent to National Decon Holdings after the February action and other attempted contacts by Chuck Morris, Mount Airy’s building codes enforcement officer, had occurred in the interim.

Morris told the commissioners Thursday that he has sent nine letters to the owner, plus made a total of nine phone calls and sent 12 text messages regarding the matter.

“And in fact, I had communication with them today, and we spoke about the pending meeting today and what the potential results of this meeting could mean,” he added. “So we have been in contact with them as much as they were willing to be in contact.”

“They don’t care,” Koch said of the ownership group’s concern about Mount Airy.

“And I getting to the point I don’t really care about them in Oklahoma.”

The codes officer also agreed with Koch’s assessment that the Koozies building poses a greater safety threat than the other two structures included in February’s blanket vote, and National Decon Holdings has done nothing to address the worsening safety hazard.

“There has been some movement on both of those other properties,” Morris said, including the Mittman building being sold and eyed for changes and the red building beside Worth Honda eyed for demolition once a pending sale goes through.

Thursday’s discussion included mention of the fact that the board still must approve a contract for the razing and approve funding for it, meaning the demolition is not a totally done deal at this point.

In the wake of Thursday’s meeting a warning was relayed from the owner of the Koozies property about possible legal action.

“He’s planning on suing” if the city government tears down his building, according to a source close to the situation.

That possibility could not be confirmed afterward with Brumley of National Decon Holdings.

City officials have said they legally can seize the property left behind to help recoup the cost of the takedown.



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