By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
City of Atmore officials put an end — at least for now — to an ongoing dispute between the city and the owner of a dilapidated Trammell Street building by removing several issues that city inspectors consider potential threats to public safety.
A crew from TripTek, an Atmore contractor, was at the site Saturday, October 6, to remove the brick building’s awning and board up the empty window and door spaces with plywood.
“This has been going on for two months or more, back and forth,” Mayor Jim Staff said. “There was no response to the last letter that was sent from our lawyer to (the owner), so we went ahead and took action to get rid of the public safety issues.”
In a letter from city attorney Larry Wettermark to Bay Minette attorney Trey Koons — who represents the building’s owner, Randy Nichols — the city’s legal counsel stated that “in its current state, the building constitutes a danger to the public and the City cannot allow this dangerous situation to exist any longer.”
Staff said those safety concerns include the possibility that the awning could fall and hurt someone walking along the sidewalk in front of the building, as well as the free access allowed by empty window and door spaces.
“The awning was pulling away from the wall,” the mayor explained. “If there was a strong wind, or someone yanked on one of the four-by-four posts, it could come down. We boarded up the windows and doors because in the rear part of the building, the ceiling is falling in. Someone could get in there and get hurt if it fell on them.”
Nichols declined to comment publicly on the city action, except to express his concern that he no longer has access to his property.
“My lawyer, through his assistant, said that I am within my rights to tear down the … plywood that they put up on Saturday in order for me to gain access to my own property,” Nichols said. “The city cannot deny access to a private property owner for no good reason, and this cover of ‘Public Safety’ … isn’t going to work.”
The mayor said the city would make the building accessible to Nichols.
“We’re going to put a door on it so he can go in and out when he needs to,” Staff said.
The mayor added that the problems with the structure came to light when plans were proposed to hold this year’s Williams Station Day celebration in the downtown area.
“What really prompted all this was when they were talking about holding Williams Station Day downtown,” he said. “We got to looking at that awning, and decided that if we have any type of big event downtown, we can’t have anything that might be a threat to public safety, like that building was.”