Legal proceedings to take ownership, condemn and demolish the Sands Dorsey Building received unanimous approval Thursday night from the Tucumcari City Commission.
Although the two-story downtown landmark had several supporters who suggested saving the building in some fashion, the city commissioners agreed it was time to take action for the sake of public safety.
The Sands Dorsey, which is at the corner of Second and Main streets, burned in a fire on June 8, 2007. In the fire most of its roof burned, much of the second story burned and collapsed onto the ground floor and some of its walls are now supported by metal stays anchored in the alley between Second and Third streets.
At previous commission meetings, retailers have asked the commission to take action so that the alleyway can be accessed for deliveries and in case of an emergency.
Artist Sharon Quarles suggested that the building’s southern section be demolished and that its northern entrance be saved and restored.
“It should not be turned into a parking lot,” Quarles said. “We should restore what we have and keep it for generations to come.”
Connie Falls said the building represented a shared experience and history for many in Tucumcari and that many residents wanted the building restored. After the train depot, the Sands Dorsey is one of the city’s most significant and historic buildings, Falls said.
Falls said she was one of several people who came downtown and watched as the building burned from June 8 through June 9.
“The economical, social and business reality is that it needs to be torn down,” said Donald Schutte, property owner and partner with Ruth Nelson in Pajarito Interiors.
Pajarito Interiors fronts Main Street and is adjacent to the Sands Dorsey building.
Schutte said that he and Nelson had made a substantial investment in the business and were continuing to do so. But the Sands Dorsey is a nuisance and detracts from retailers who are trying to rebuild and make downtown viable.
The owner of the Sands Dorsey has abandoned the building, Schutte said. The “matter is just dragging on and on, the owner is not going to put any money into the building,” Schutte said.
The owner of the building, Bob Hengstenberg, could not be reached for comment.
City Manager John Sutherland said it had been difficult to find an engineer who would sign off on recommendations or opinions regarding full or partial restoration or the cost of demolition to the city. The city also has not been able to get a permit to do any work on the building from the state’s Construction Industries Division.
“I don’t believe it’s our responsibility to salvage his (Hengstenberg’s) building for him,” commissioner Jim Lafferty said.
The walls are not stable and could fall and hurt someone, commissioner Jim Witcher said.
“What we need to do is tear the building down,” Witcher said.
Bricks from the building could be used to make a park, with features also made of the bricks, Witcher said.
The city, however, cannot take action because the building is privately owned.
Therefore, the city commissioners agreed to ask its attorney to take the necessary legal steps to gain ownership of the Sands Dorsey so that demolition could begin.