Burnt mattresses sit outside of motel rooms at Sands Motel on California Street. There is fire damage in some of the rooms and police officers have also found drug paraphernalia. The City of Socorro city council voted to condemn the building on June 7.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

The city council passed Resolution No. 21-06-07B on June 7 to condemn the Sands Motel on California Street, which is owned by James Benjamin Rivera.

“I think every counselor has been trying to get something done with that and I appreciate the administration because I know it took you a long time because of all the windows you had to jump through, but I think this is something that we really needed to get passed,” councilman Gordy Hicks said.

City of Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker said that the Sands Motel is being condemned due to being a “major problem for public health and safety and crime.”

One of the rooms at the Sands Motel has extreme fire damage due to a structure fire.

According to an affidavit, from February 24, 2018, until April 17, 2021, there have been 15 separate police reports including three burglaries, three possession of controlled substances and criminal trespass, four trespasses, two arrests on outstanding warrants and one structure fire.

A police report from March 21, 2021, said, “Hotel does not have power or water. Empty rooms contain feces, urine and drug paraphernalia.”

Bhasker said that police have been called to the property approximately 35 times in the past few years. He also mentioned that there are mattresses outside of the motel rooms and that people have been found inside with drugs.

During the meeting, Bhasker said that the city has reached out to Rivera multiple times and has not been successful.

“We will eventually get a death… or something in that and the neighboring business is very concerned about that,” he said. “That’s where we are headed. It’s a problem and I’m sorry to say, but it’s been years that we have been dealing with it, it’s not something that occurred in the last month or two even. We’ve given the owner every opportunity.”

Another issue is that Rivera is an absentee owner since he does not live in Socorro and has not given the city a proposal as to how the motel can be improved or used usefully.

City Treasurer and Administrator Donald Monette said that Rivera will be notified and he can appeal to the city council. Monette said that if no appeal is filed then it will go to the courts.

According to the resolution, if the owner “fails to commence removing the buildings or structures” within 10 days of being “served a copy of the resolution,” within five days of the city council determining that the resolution is enforced or after the “district court enters judgment sustaining the determination of the city council” the city can remove everything at the cost of the owner.

“We don’t take lightly in condemning somebody’s private property, but we’ve exhausted every avenue we can with the owner to try and rehabilitate it,” Bhasker said.