Commissioner wants demolition to get higher priority

QCS Staff

Tucumcari Commissioner Robert Lumpkin wants demolition and disposal of the Sands Dorsey building downtown given a higher priority among city issues.

Lumpkin raised the issue Thursday during a commission meeting.

One promising approach, he said, may be to entice a private developer to take ownership of the site as part of a larger project. He said that might attract grant funds to cover the cost of removing the building’s remains.

Patrick Vanderpool, director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, was scheduled to address this approach with the commission Thursday, but was not able to appear due to illness, commissioners said.

“We still need to pursue whatever avenues we can,” Lumpkin said, including continuing an effort to force the building’s owner, Robert Hengstenberg, Chimayo, to pay for the building’s disposal.

“We are tired of waiting for all the options and not getting it done,” he said, but the city still wants a final solution to Sands Dorsey “using as little tax money as possible.”

Demolition and disposal of the building is expected to cost $400,000 to $500,000 due to special handling needed for hazardous materials in the building, including asbestos and lead, according to City Manager Doug Powers.

Lumpkin also briefly recounted past efforts to deal with Sands Dorsey and pointed out it is only one of many buildings in the city that should be condemned and demolished.

The Sands Dorsey building was heavily damaged by fire in 2007 and again in 2012. The building’s fate has been an issue since a first fire.

In the first year, there were efforts by Hengstenberg and some city residents to save the building as a historic structure, Lumpkin said. These efforts delayed action on tearing down the building.

The city declared the building dangerous and put liens on actions taken to reduce hazards at the site. It also ordered Hengstenberg to take action. Through his attorney, George Adelo of Santa Fe, however, Hengstenberg has managed to avoid liability by claiming he does not have the means to pay for the building’s demolition, Lumpkin and City Attorney Randy Knudson said.

The building still belongs to Hengstenberg, Lumpkin said, because the city will not take ownership. If the city does procure the building, he said, it will also incur an immediate mandate to take action or face enforcement penalties from the New Mexico Environment Department.

The city has been working with the environmental department to locate financial assistance to tear the building down, Lumpkin said, but with little to show.

In July, the city sent an action plan and assessment for the Sands Dorsey site to Paul Martinez, an enforcement officer in the New Mexico Environment Department’s solid waste division. Powers said in late October the plan has been returned to the city for changes and additional information before any further action receives approval.

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