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Housing Board says “the law is the law”

Housing Board says “the law is the law”

The Okemah Housing Standards Board held a special meeting on February 14, Valentine’s Day, to  discuss the abatement of properties identified by Code Enforcement Officer Kimberly Bradshaw. 

Board members present were Bobby Green, Rick Orr, Debbie Sauve and Shirley Shumate.

One of the properties to be discussed is located on South Second Street to the east of the Okemah Library. The granddaughter of the deceased owner of the property was present at the meeting. According to the granddaughter the property is still in probate and she is not able to sell it. The property under discussion to be abated was identified in two lots. One is the foundation of a burned down house and the other is located next door.  

The granddaughter explained to the board that she and her brother are the family members who are left to deal with the property. She also explained she did not have the $8,500 to clean up the property. She informed the Board that she is scheduled to see an attorney on March 9 regarding the property seeking counsel on how to proceed.  

Chairman Bobby Green suggested giving her an opportunity to have the March 9 appointment with her attorney.  He suggested the Board could address this property after her meeting with the attorney.  One of the properties to be abated has already burned down and all that remains on that lot is the foundation.  

Chairman Green’s suggestion was met with an opposing view by Board Member Shirley Shumate. Shumate said; “the law is the law.” She noted there are so many issues and the city is at fault if something were to happen.  It was also noted the property becomes more valuable if the property is clean. It was never explained in the meeting how the city has liability for structures in the community. 

Chairman Green asked Code Enforcement Officer Bradshaw for her recommendation. She replied while looking at the granddaughter that “we want it clean, the ownership is your business”.  Bradshaw said it is by the school, there are kids and the old house is not boarded up. The granddaughter stated there is a fence. Her statement about a fence on the property was dismissed by Code Enforcement Officer Bradshaw. Bradshaw said as it sits, it is not a safe house. 

The granddaughter requested a 30 day extension. However, the Board was not inclined. They voted 4-0 to abate the property. At this point, the Board opened bids on the property. The four bids ranged from $8,875 to $6,800. The bid was awarded to RGB3 for $6,800. 

The granddaughter questioned if she could sell it as is and then whoever buys it can clean it up?  Bradshaw said that was a lengthy process. At this point, Bradshaw told her the city could put her on a payment plan and not put a lien directly on the property tax rolls. 

The payment plan is a new development for the Housing Authority Board. In their November 8, 2022 meeting, Bradshaw explained to property owner Billy Moore that he must pay the $2,100 in one lump sum. There was no payment plan.  That amount later over doubled in price because of having to approve another contractor to clean up the property.

The Board reviewed a letter from another land owner who requested a six month extension to tear down the structure.  Board member Debbie Sauve recommended to move forward on the abatement. Board Chair Green felt six month might be unrealistic, but the board should consider giving a little extra time. Bradshaw emphasized the need to move forward  and take control because homeless people come out at night and could cause a fire in the structures.   The item was tabled for 30 days until the property owner can appear before the Housing Authority Board.

Code Enforcement Officer Bradshaw reported to the Board that in March she will begin tagging vehicles and towing them.  She also said that any swimming pool without a four foot fence will come down. She clarified that it doesn’t matter if the ladder is removable or not.  She also noted mowing season is near indicating she will be watching for overgrown yards. 

Bradshaw commented that even if a building is in good shape with a good roof and boarded up for longer than six months it can be listed for abatement. 

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