Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

October 7, 2013

Anonymous benefactors step up to clean up

Yum-Yums project could cost around $70,000

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — An anonymous group of benefactors have apparently banded together to pay for the clean-up of the destroyed, debris-riddled husk of Yum Yum's at 215 S. Main Street, a Jacksonville attorney announced Monday.

It has been over five months since the 12:15 a.m. April 28 fire destroyed the building that housed the Yum Yum's catering and bakery — setting off  a community debate regarding Jacksonville's housing and building standards. Two town hall meetings have been called to discuss the matter since then.

The latest development came in the form of a memo issued Monday. In it,  Eldridge Moak of Moak & Kesler, PLLC announced this cleanup effort, which should include environmental testing for hazardous substances such as asbestos.

Jacksonville City Manager Mo Raissi, meanwhile estimated the repairs could cost in the neighborhood of $70,000.

Beginning with an emphatic “The identity of my clients will not be disclosed,” Jacksonville attorney Moak outlined the benefactor group's very specific plan.

“My clients have the desire and the financial resources to have the site comply with all city, state and federal regulations,” Moak announced. “The work will be done by qualified professionals who have licenses required for this job. However, my clients are not willing to write a blank check. I need to secure expert advice as to the approximate cost of this project. From confirmation now available, we believe the cost will not be prohibitive, but we need confirmation.”

Moak said he was unsure how long this process will take but said he will probably have a better idea in the next week or so.

“Our plan is to proceed in a deliberate manner and employ qualified contractors to do what is necessary to complete this project in a  professional manner,” he wrote.

City officials trimmed the walls and debris in and around the Yum Yum's structure back in August.

City Public Works Director Will Cole explained that the city's concern was public safety, which is why workers converted the outsides of the building husk into a less-dangerous, more manageable form to ensure the walls were safe and stable and didn't fall on anyone.

But the city's responsibility ended there. It was up to the owners of the property to clean up and repair the insides of the structure, city officials said.

But property owners Robert and Tina Lane didn't immediately step forward to take care of that end of the repairs, which angered some residents already concerned about the lingering eyesore.

Raissi said the intervention of these benefactors has preempted any city actions that would have been taken toward the goal of forcing the owners to do the cleanup — including a board of adjustments meeting  originally set for Tuesday night.

“I think it's been worked out,” Raissi said Monday. “We are pleased these anonymous donors are willing to pay to clean this up on behalf of both the city and taxpayers. We really appreciate their kindness.”

Raissi said the timetable of the benefactors on the repairs will be “as soon as humanly possible.”

At the second of the two aforementioned town hall meetings, concerns were raised regarding the possibility of asbestos being in the building.

In the memo issued Monday, attorney Moak said members of this group don't know if there are hazard materials on the site, but just to be safe, an environmental consulting firm has been retained to perform initial testing.

“The firm will submit a report as to the presence of hazardous substances,” the attorney said in the memo. “After we receive that report, the consultant will assist in developing a plan of action for removal of the debris and rubble.”