At one point, Police Chief Andy Lopez Jr. warned those in the audience to remain civil or he would remove them.
An item on the council’s agenda was to discuss and take any action on health and safety concerns about the property located at 502 E. Empresario St.
Owner of the property, Kenda Nelson, chastised the council for not notifying her.
“Nobody called for any courtesy. Had I not heard about it, I wouldn’t be here,” Nelson said.
Mayor Rey Jaso apologized on behalf of the city council for not having any notification sent to Nelson.
“I had numerous people ask me to put it on the agenda,” said City Councilman Dale Skrobarcek.
Skrobarcek said debris has blown into neighboring yards, and the fencing around the burned-out house is down in places so children can go in and probably step on nails.
It was noted that a fire burned the house in January 2008, five years ago.
Initially, the council held off doing anything about the burned-out house while litigation was going on at the request of then Councilman Ron Nelson.
But a settlement was reached about a year and a half ago.
Nelson said, after the settlement, she met with three contractors to see about demolition.
She also said her husband had heart surgery and other mishaps prevented them from the cleanup, which at that point was not a priority.
However, she contracted with Leslie Premo to tear the house down. Premo was present at the meeting.
They had talked to the mayor and said the mayor told them as long as they were making progress, it was OK.
Mayor Pro Tem Karen Watts asked what the estimated time to finish cleaning the lot up was.
Nelson said nothing was said about that.
“I think we made great strides,” Nelson said.
“You want it done in a specific amount of time. I can’t get laborers in this city that are worth a d__n,” Premo said.
Premo said there were all kinds of houses in Refugio the council could address as needing demolition. He asked why the council chose the Empresario property.
Ron Nelson, also present at the meeting, said the whole issue was political.
Ron Nelson, Councilman Joey Heard and Mayor Rey Jaso are running for mayor.
Premo said he had told neighbors around the pile of debris that if they saw rodents to call him.
“I have not had complaints. I am trying to finish the job as fast as I can,” he said.
Watts complained about a letter she wrote to the editor about two years ago that Kenda Nelson said she would not publish after the settlement was made. But the letter was eventually published with editing.
Watts said the letter she wrote wasn’t put in because she believed Nelson spent the settlement money from the electric company on something else besides the cleanup.
Nelson said as part of the settlement, she couldn’t talk about the settlement agreement.
“The bottom line is we are going to get that done as fast as we can,” Premo said.
He added that some neighbor is going on the property and stealing doors and trying to find the Nelsons’ jewelry.
Kenda Nelson added that copper also had been taken, and that was why someone opened the fence.
“The property needs to be fenced to keep children out,” Skrobarcek said.
He added that the project also needed to be speeded up.
He also said that lumber with nails in it from the debris could be piled by the road to be picked up.
“We’re not picking on the property. It’s been years. We agreed to wait through litigation. It’s time to address it,” Watts said.
Ron Nelson said the cleanup was getting done.
“It’s not fast enough for the council, but we are getting it done,” he said.
No action was taken on the agenda item. Skrobarcek said the council will wait to see what happens.
The council also addressed another property at 301 Power St. across the street from H-E-B.
The property has a pile of debris and trash that has been there for quite some time.
Skrobarcek asked Police Chief Lopez for an update on the lot.
Lopez said the issue had been addressed.
“The last thing we’ve done on it is issue a citation,” Lopez said.
He added that the citation is as far as the police can go on it for now.
City Secretary Callie Shreckengost said a court date on the property cleanup was set for April 26.
City Attorney Don Kubicek, after the meeting, said the judge in the case could levy a fine up to $500 as an outcome of the court proceedings.
He also said the owners of the property could be given an extension of time if they are working on cleaning the property up.
Watts said the council should see what happens in court and proceed from there at its first meeting in May.
In other business, the council approved a resolution authorizing GrantWorks as the administrator of the next HOME Program applications.
“You could do up to 10 more houses,” said HOME Program Director Donna Johnson.
Recently, four houses were given to successful applicants.
“Last time you had a match. This time, there is no match,” she said.
“Your current list will include people who didn’t make the last round of successful applicants,” she added.
The council also approved raises for the city council.
Only newly elected or re-elected officials will receive the raise.
For council members, the raise increases salary from $200 to $350.
For the mayor, the raise increases salary from $1,050 to $1,500.