By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
TheFlashToday.com NEWS & SPORTS – FREE & LOCAL
The Erath County Central Appraisal District lost its certificate of occupancy for its new building Monday morning after it was learned there were “improprieties” in the process required for a certificate to be issued, according to multiple sources.
The news of the certificate’s suspension came about two hours after TheFlashToday.com made an official public information request for copies of inspections for the building located at 1197 W. South Loop in Stephenville. The information request also included all certificates of occupancy issued by the city within the last year.
The improprieties surrounding the CAD ‘s building are believed to be a lack inspections by the city of Stephenville, a process that would have been overseen by the Director of Planning and Building Services Judy Miller. She was let go from her job by city administrator Pat Bridges last week, a decision upheld even after a tense council meeting that included numerous comments from area builders and realtors supporting her.
The council spent nearly two hours in executive session last Tuesday, largely for discussion of Bridges’ decision to dismiss Miller.
Some residents and council members feel Bridges may have overstepped his authority when he did not consult with the council prior to releasing Miller of her duties.
Mainly, people speaking out wanted to know how such an immediate decision was justified.
Only the issues of performance, attendance and conduct were briefly mentioned by Bridges when he read a statement concerning Miller’s dismissal.
In the case of the new ECAD building, however, it appears Miller circumvented city ordinances and state laws, something that would give Bridges cause for immediate action.
Because the CAD’s new purchase is a parcel of commercial land larger than an acre, there may be additional requirements prior to a certificate of occupancy being issued. Some of those requirements appear to be an environmental impact study and a watershed study of the property. The complexity of such a project and a lack of information makes it unclear as to what has and has not been done, but the loss of the certificate of occupancy is evidence there are problems.
The CAD partially dismantled storage buildings on the back of the property and any potential building or parking lot changes could change how rain water is shed off the property. In order to remove walls or reroute electrical wiring the CAD would also need a building permit, another item that appears to be missing.
Stephenville requires one paved parking space for every 200 square feet of commercial building space and the new building will require at least 33 spaces to be in conformance with existing codes.
The building’s age brings about the question of asbestos, another reason for environmental studies.
Monday morning a pair of workers were still applying cover plates to electrical plugs and had a large number of tools to work on the building. About an hour following TheFlashToday.com’s 10 a.m. public information request, an Erath CAD employee was meeting with a representative of the Stephenville Fire Marshal’s office.
Closer to noon, sources reported the CAD’s certificate of occupancy had been pulled. The issuance of the certificate, the process of how that happened and who asked for the certificate to be issued without due process is now under review by Bridges and his staff.
The Stephenville City Council is meeting in executive session this evening in conjunction with an agenda that includes possibly appointing interim directors of Planning and Building Services and the Stephenville Economic Development Authority and evaluating the city administrator.
Attempts to contact Bridges for comment were unsuccessful due to his prior obligations. As of 4 p.m. the City of Stephenville had declined to produce the requested documents citing they needed to reviewed by city attorney Randy Thomas.