ENID, Okla. — Enid City Commission has approved contracts to purchase more properties in the Lahoma Courts addition.
With the approval Tuesday of purchase contracts for the properties at 2317-2321 E Court and 805-809 S. Cleveland, the city has just two properties, out of 23, left to acquire in the addition. The properties will be sold to Hunt Properties Inc., which has plans for retail development.
During the commission's study session, Ward 2 Commissioner Aaron Brownlee asked for an update on the addition.
"(City Manager) Jerald (Gilbert), we haven't had an update in quite a while on what's going on there. (The structures in the addition are) supposed to be demolished by the end of the month," Brownlee said. "It's in my ward. I don't feel like I know a single thing about it."
Asbestos was found in the sheetrock walls of seven or eight houses, Gilbert said.
"That's going to require us to hire somebody else to go in and remediate that hazard by pulling out all the sheetrock," he said.
Engineering Director Chris Gdanski said a contractor has to be certified and licensed with the state to pull out asbestos and dispose of it.
"It wasn't appropriate to have a demolition contractor come in and try to pick out two or three houses. It's not efficient for him, it's not efficient for us," he said. "What we did, is we suspended his contract time until we get a full grip on what it's going to take to remediate."
Gdanski said an original Nov. 30 deadline to have the city-owned structures in the addition demolished is not "do-able."
"Well now, there's a possibility that there's some houses, we'd have to talk to the contractor about this, that we could have them demolish," Gilbert said. "But, there would have to be enough of them to justify mobilizing them to do that."
Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell questioned the status of some homes being moved out of the addition.
Gilbert said one has been moved and three were being prepared to be moved.
"Why don't we just move them all? Asbestos is going to be expensive," Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser asked.
Gilbert said he could look into it because the person moving the four would like to move some more.
"We could give them to him if he'd take them off our hands and avoid having to pay for having that asbestos cleaned up and then having them demolished," Vanhooser said.
Out of the city-owned properties, 19 have been vacated, Gilbert said. Through the contract with Hunt Properties, the city has until Jan. 31, 2016, to acquire the remaining properties.
Brownlee said he has people asking what is happening in the addition.
"I'm telling them they're all going to be demolished by Nov. 30. When did this change and why didn't we know about it?" he asked.
"Well, commissioner, it's changed in the last week or two. And, probably, I should communicate with you and probably do a better job communicating," Gilbert said.
"In the future, it would be helpful," Brownlee said.
Vanhooser asked City Attorney Andrea Chism about a contract Nicholas Real Estate has — on properties it owns — with Hunt Properties.
"I'm hearing from some of the tenants that they've been told they've got six months before they even have to move out of the properties that Nicholas is in control of. That's not going to be on the same time schedule as us by the end of January," Vanhooser said. "Do we have any control over that, or do you know what's going on?"
Chism said she has not seen the Nicholas Real Estate contracts.
"How are we going to sell that property to Hunt on Jan. 31 if there's still people living in homes that Nicholas owns?" Vanhooser asked.
After Jan. 31, there is time before closing, Chism said.
"I think it's like 90 days to close, so it will be the end of April at the latest, should be," she said. "That's almost six months from now."
Ezzell said Nicholas Real Estate has a separate agreement with Hunt Properties.
"We have 23 properties and that's all we're worried about," Gilbert said.
Vanhooser said he thinks the deadline Nicholas Real Estate has is something the commission needs to know.
"Why should be bust our tails to get this done and then he could sit on it for another year? That impacts what Aaron's asking, what do we tell the people about when something's going to happen over there?" Vanhooser asked.
"Well, we have a contract," Ezzell said.
"I'm not interested in what you think ... Ben, I'm interested in what Andrea thinks," Vanhooser said.
Chism said she thinks the time for the contracts might be close to coinciding.
Gilbert said he would contact Nicholas Real Estate and Hunt Properties.
"Regardless of what Nicholas' obligations are, Hunt has obligations to us. That's what I'm talking about, is we have an agreement with Hunt," Ezzell said. "If we can perform by Jan. 31, they have a finite window to close, and not just close but they have a finite window ... to actually get something done. They have obligations to us that extend past the closing date."
Vanhooser asked where the city is at on the remaining two properties.
Gilbert said one is in condemnation proceedings, while there is a potential offer on the other one.
"Let's talk about those in executive session, if you don't mind," Chism said.
Shewey asked to talk about the properties in the study session.
"Well, I honestly would prefer not to talk about the status of litigation here, in a public meeting, especially since we could discuss it in a closed meeting," Chism said.
"I think we all need to be on the same page," Shewey said.
The properties were not discussed further in the study session.