By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – Last week, the Woodville City Council and City Administrator Mandy Risinger discussed, in closed session, the status of the Willis Motel.
Councilmembers, Risinger and Mayor Paula Jones discussed the topic with City Attorney Brad Elrod to see what options the city had to move forward with the structure.
Risinger said the city “reached a point to where we had run our gauntlet of what our ordinance permits,” and wanted to find the next step available in condemning the structure.
The motel, which has operated in Woodville for more than 75 years, was the location of a fire in 2019, and was the subject of hearings held by the city last year. The city compelled the owner to come and testify as why it should avoid condemnation.
The pandemic had hampered the city’s ability to work on many cases of dilapidated structures. When the city got to work on the case, they had found that the Willis’s owner had not resolved any issues. Subsequently, when the owner appeared at a hearing in March 2021, he was under the impression all of the issues had been resolved.
The motel fell into further disrepair after the owners completed some of the work on the city’s deadline, following the hearing, and has been closed to the public since the city took initial action.
The motel has been ordered vacated and secured, and Risinger said the city would put up orange fencing and signs stating for no one to enter the property. She said the measures were to make sure there is a full understanding that there is not supposed to be anyone on the property.
The process of judicial abatement with dilapidated structures is an extensive one, Risinger said, and allows the property owner every opportunity to remedy the situation.
“Litigation with these things has made us cautious with how we proceed,” Risinger said. “We just needed to make the determination on what the next step should be.”