Some residents were surprised during a public hearing at Monday's City Council meeting when they heard that the contractors who demolished Old Memorial Hospital had finished the job and were paid in full.
Palestine resident Barbara Jordan, who lives adjacent to the lot, said the land where the hospital stood is an eyesore. Worse, she told council members, it's downright dangerous.
“Someone is going to get hurt,” Jordan, a member of the Old Memorial Hospital Task Force and the Historic Landmark Commission, told the Herald-Press Tuesday. “A child or senior citizen is going to try to cut through here and get seriously hurt.”
Jordan noted a foot-long sharpened piece of steel jutting from the ground, surrounded by cinder blocks and high weeds.
When the hospital was demolished late last year, many residents expressed relief that the “dangerous eyesore” was gone.
Now, with cinder blocks, metal spikes, twisted rebar, ruts and ravines lacing the property at Angelina Street and South Sycamore, some residents say the city traded one dangerous eyesore for another.
“We were told the area was going to be grass-ready when the contractors were done,” Jordan said. “The contractor, Air-Quality Associates, did what they were told, but their contract had been changed. I spoke to the foreman. He told me his people were told to leave the lot for a future developer to complete.”
Jordan said she believes Mayor Steve Presley, and former Public Works Director Tim Perry were aware of the contract change – something Presley denied.
“I do not remember any contract being altered,” Presley told the Herald-Press. “Our former public works director said he would be responsible for finishing and planting that area. Of course, he's no longer here, and that plan left with him.
“With all of the jobs for the city to do, and all the personnel changes in the city, some things are taking longer to get to.”
Jordan said that, in addition to safety hazards, the ditches and ruts are causing storm drains to clog.
Presley said he was aware of the storm drain problem. If drains continue to clog, he said, the city must respond. However, he said, the council no longer controls what happens to the property.
“All of these things – safety issues and such – are jobs for the city manager,” he said. “Getting the crews down there to take care of it is not the responsibility of council.”
Multiple attempts by the Herald-Press to contact City Manager Leslie Cloer were not returned.
District 6 Council member Ann Connor said Perry, who retired in July, led her to believe the hospital lot had been finished shortly before he left.
“I asked Tim Perry about this in July, and he told me it was all done,” Connor told the Herald-Press. “I recently went by and saw pipes and metal sticking up and ravines carved in the ground. It's very dangerous.”
Connor said residents' safety is the council's responsibility. “Things were left undone,” she said. “This needs to be addressed; it needs to be a priority.”