By Mollie LaSalle
– A special hearing on the status of the Willis Motel was held at 5:15 on Monday evening prior to the regular council meeting, which was moved to the Fire Station while remodeling work is being done on the city offices. WOODVILLE
The meeting was conducted via Zoom, as the property owners were not present. City Attorney Brad Elrod spoke first, and was advised that the owners acquired the property back in their possession in foreclosure some months ago. The previous owners had been served notice by the city two years ago that the property was found to be a nuisance by order of the buildings and standards commission, and the situation had not been abated in a timely manner. The building was condemned by city council in August 2021.
Mayor Amy Bythewood asked the owners,” what is your plan, what is your timeline, and y’all are more than aware of what is going on and unfortunately the cost associated with it. In trying to make our community as safe as possible, we know you care about that as well, how we can move forward as quickly as possible in removing the structure”.
The owner advised that “we have reached out to potential buyers, and we are in conversation with one at the present time, so we are actively and diligently trying to move things forward”. The owners just recently posted a “For Sale by Owner” sign on the property. The owner also advised that they were simultaneously getting bids for demolition of the building.
Bythewood responded, “ the structure is not secure, it is open in multiple places, and very accessible to anyone or anything that might have an interest in being there. The city doesn’t have the ability or resources to secure it because its private property.” The owners replied that they have taken the steps to secure the property, and advised that they will be in town next week to insure that the building is secured and boarded up. They also advised that the potential buyer they are talking with would essentially be responsible for the demolition of the building.
Councilmember Lee Mann asked the owners specifically what they intend to do going forward, and wanted them to commit to a specific time frame for this to be resolved. “There needs to be a reasonable time frame for the potential buyer to respond with an offer to close the deal out; either find a possible buyer, someone showing up to buy, or start the demolition process, we can’t go on like this forever”, Mann said. In the end, after much back and forth with the property owners, council voted to re-evaluate the property status in 30 days, which will coincide with the next council meeting on Monday, Dec. 11. Council will hold another Zoom meeting at that time with the property owners to discuss any progress. The public hearing ended at 5:40 p.m.
The regular council meeting then began at 6 p.m., with all members present. Bythewood signed a proclamation officially declaring November as “Native American Heritage Month”.
The first item on the regular agenda was the canvassing and certification of election results for the Nov. 7 election. There will be a new council member, as Paula Jones ran for alderman seat # 3, and won, over the incumbent, Cliff Wright and one other challenger, Elizabeth Grammer. Jones had previously served as mayor, and as a councilmember in the past.
Bythewood next discussed appointing a new member to the eight member board of directors of the Tyler County Appraisal District. Mike Cabaniss was selected to fill this position, which is a two year term.
Chief of Police Mike McCulley introduced a new member of the police department to council. Daniel Johnson is a native of Tyler County, and graduated from Chester ISD. He had previously worked for the city of Corrigan’s police department. McCulley added, “ he is assigned to the school, he is our SRO for the High School and Jr. High School campuses. We’ve had him on board for about six to eight weeks. He is a fantastic asset to our department, and I know that the school has already given me accolades of what he’s done so far; I am very blessed to have him”.