Nacogdoches fire chief wants to speed up condemning process

By Holley Nees - email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) –In Nacogdoches, more than one hundred buildings are slated to be condemned. Under a decades-old code, it takes around 3 years to condemn and tear down a dilapidated building. The fire chief wants to speed up the process, and help residents, along the way.

"The objective is to eliminate these substandard structures, to eliminate the nuisance, to eliminate the problem, to eliminate the fire hazard and the rodent harborage hazard, but also to try to help people have a good, safe, healthy place to live," explains Chief Keith Kiplinger.

Dexter White has lived in a Nacogdoches home for 17 years. He remembers when it was the American Legion Hall.

"All the old men used to come in and play dominos," said White.

Now it's just one of nearly 100 structures the chief is working to get through the condemning process faster.

"I thought they was going to keep it up, you know, and keep it here since it's a historical building, but if no one is going to do nothing with it, then might as well tear it down," said White.

The problem: under the current code, it takes about three years to complete the process for each structure and as time passes, the list grows.

"Our objective is to clear the existing list within three years, and then to have no more than 12 months from the time that we identify a structure until the time it's gone," said Kiplinger.

On average, it costs the city about $2,000 to tear down and haul off a place like this, and although they don't recover a lot of the cost, he says it's worth it to clean up this city.

"When they still have a roof and there's still a relatively dry, warm place to go, the drug users, drug dealers, teenagers, gang members, all tend to congregate in those places," said Kiplinger.

He wants to redesign the process so buildings can be not only condemned, but restored faster.

"For those structures that are in a substandard way that the owners live in the houses and they're low-income people, our objective is to try to get them a new house or to get their house fixed," said Kiplinger.

Kiplinger says the faster they're taken care of, new growth can begin in the oldest town in Texas.

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