The Socorro city council upheld the resolution for the condemnation of the Sands Motel on California Street during an appeal hearing on Monday.
The resolution passed in the June 7 city council meeting.
The councilors said the condemnation will not happen if Rivera can show improvements to the property.
“The city will enforce the condemnation with the owner’s ability to work with the city and satisfy a timeline of improvement,” City of Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker said. “If that is not satisfied to the city’s satisfaction, then we will move to the next stage of continuing the condemnation. We will give him a chance within a reasonable time limit to do a stage-by-stage improvement of that property.”
Half-owner James Rivera attended the hearing on Monday over the phone as he stated that his vehicle broke down in Deming. Rivera’s attorney, David Lutz, held his phone to the microphone so the council could hear Rivera’s testimony. City of Socorro attorney Jerry Armijo was also at the hearing.
The other owner is AYS Defined Benefits and Rivera said he is buying them out. They bought the motel in April of 2018.
Rivera will be meeting with city officials on Monday to discuss a plan moving forward and a timeline.
According to Bhasker, if Rivera misses the meeting, then the city will move forward with condemning the motel.
The council agreed that the first steps to securing the area are fencing, security and lighting, even if it is temporary lighting.
“I will be onsite,” Riviera said. “I am pulling my fifth-wheel and I’ll be parking that and I’ll be staying in there. If I’m not there, somebody else will be there. There will always be somebody there.”
Rivera said he would be in Socorro by the end of the week and that a chain-link fence would be put up around the motel by the end of next week. He is bringing all the fencing supplies with him.
During the hearing, Rivera said he has family in Socorro who checks up on the motel and lets him know what is going on and the condition of the building.
“I’ve had people go out there and close the doors to the place… the doors are getting kicked in and that is one of my concerns,” he said. “How are they getting kicked in?”
Rivera said he is selling one of his houses in Tucson, Arizona, so that he can be in Socorro for the next year or two to fix the motel.
His plans were to start renovations on the motel about a year-and-a-half ago, but it fell through due to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 hit, and Arizona and New Mexico were high-risk states which meant that I would have to quarantine every time I got there, which would make it very, very difficult… It was very hard to go there and do the two-week quarantine,” Rivera said.
According to Rivera, he has a contracting business and would be doing the renovations himself.
The hearing and resolution to condemn Sands Motel happened because Rivera is an absent owner since he doesn’t live in Socorro. According to Bhasker, the city has attempted to reach Rivera but doesn’t have contact information for him.
The Socorro Police Department was previously able to send Rivera citations.
“The most I ever got contacted by anyone in Socorro about that was my own family… I never got calls or anything from the police department and they do have my number, I believe, or the city. I never got any calls. The only thing I got was a whole bunch of citations in one envelope,” Rivera said.
Socorro Police Department Chief Mike Winders said he thought Rivera would reach out after receiving the citations.
Winders previously sent citations to the owner of Motel 6 and then the owners responded by putting up a chain-link fence.
“They have done a pretty good job of securing that up,” he said. “We were headed down this road with them and they stepped up and fenced it. There are people there. We are rarely there… I know people complained and people were sleeping in there… They jumped on it and took care of it.”
Winders said the fence around Motel 6 has greatly helped and has kept the need for police at bay and that a fence around Sands Motel would have the same effect.
According to an affidavit from Winders, there have been 15 police reports from February 24, 2018, until April 17, 2021. The reports include four trespasses, three burglaries, three possession of controlled substances and criminal trespass, two arrests on outstanding warrants, and one structure fire.
“The one that really did it for me and we knew it was coming, but sure enough a fire was in there, and lucky enough nobody died,” Winders said. “We are afraid we are going to have a drug overdose or a sexual assault. I don’t have that many officers on the street at a given time. We can’t be there trying to keep that place cleared out and we need some help from the owner with this building. We need something done.”
Winders said the building “invites sleeping” due to their being mattresses.
“There is drug paraphernalia on a daily,” he said. “There is no water in there. They are trying to sleep in these beds. We had a fire on a bed. If we go in there right now, I would find something in one of those 20, 30, 40 rooms.”
After Winders gave his testimony, councilman Gordy Hicks said that the police reports show that something needs to be done with the motel by either the City of Socorro or by Rivera.
“It’s documentation after documentation of stuff going wrong in that area,” Hicks said. “It seems like the property owner doesn’t care about it. We can’t get a hold of him. We are having a hard time getting a hold of him and at the last minute, he is throwing a hail Mary trying to get it shut down… It is not a safe place for the community. It is not a safe place for anybody. Report after report shows you that it is not a place to have in Socorro. It’s been an eyesore to everybody.”