By Chris Furguson
The Brawley City Council heard a special update at their Tuesday, October 16 meeting concerning the aftermath of recent fires in the downtown area and the possible demolition options the city has.
The fires occurred on September 14, when the Superior Furniture building burned, and the more recent October 4 fire at the Top Hat Cocktail Bar.
Demolition of the Superior Furniture building was scheduled for Wednesday, with a portion of North Plaza to be closed while work goes on. If work is not finished on that day, the road will need to be closed for an additional day.
When the clean up is complete, including the portion of the building that covered the sidewalk, the city will be allowed to open up the right lane for parking and additional flow of traffic. The lane had been closed due to potential risks with the pillars falling onto the street.
The lane had been closed to traffic shortly after the fire occurred. The closing has had an impact on businesses on Main Street who have not had the parking they are used to. “It’s not perfect, but we hope it will provide some relief” said City Manager Rosanna Moore.
Mayor George Nava said that he was glad progress was being made.
The council also heard an update on the October 4 Top Hat fire, which closed portions of G street and 8th Streets.
The street closures are due to the possibility of the building, already visibly leaning before the fire, possibly collapsing onto the street.
Area businesses have also been dramatically affected. According to Moore, the owner of El Sol Market, which sits on the corner of 8th and Main streets, estimates that he has lost as much as a 25% loss of business due to the street closures. Moore also said that the owner is trying to be patient with the city.
Moore also clarified that the city is in a bind due to the owners of the property being labeled as “deceased.” Normally, the city would notify the owners and have them clean up any damage but that process has been complicated.
Since property taxes have not been collected since 2006, Imperial County has begun a process to sell the parcel by February 2013. According to City Attorney Dennis Morita, Brawley’s costs in any demolition and fencing would achieve “super priority” status and that any money collected would first go to the city.
Mayor Nava added that “it would be next to impossible to collect on any liens” the demolition would warrant.
Moore also said that the Imperial County Environmental Health group has raised concerns about the building and may be able to offer options that the city may otherwise not have.
The council gave Moore direction to pursue avenues of demolition and fencing to help open the closed-off streets and determine the cost to the city. A special stand alone item on next Tuesday’s joint Council/Planning commission meeting will address the city’s options.