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Lubbock City Council Reopens Some Lanes Near Omni Building

Cole Shooter, KFYO.com

Some lanes in downtown Lubbock will reopen after being closed for around a year.

For the second meeting in a row, those with offices near the Omni Building near 14th Street and Avenue K spoke to the Lubbock City Council donning “Free My Street” shirts, urging them to reopen the street near the building.

The streets near the Omni Building were closed last year due to large marble tiles and other pieces falling off of the building, which has sat vacant for some time.

Lubbock attorney Sarah Gunter, whose office has been affected by the closing of the streets near the Omni Building, spoke to the Council.

“Every year since I’ve been in practice, until last year, my business was expanding and my business was growing, and that cut back tremendously beginning last year,” said Gunter. “You want to talk about revitalization of downtown, and people are talking about having to leave Avenue K because of the effect to their business.”

Attorney John Sims also discussed the issue, saying “Most of the people who come from that direction into my office, here’s what they say – ‘Why the hell is that street still closed?’”

District Six Lubbock City Councilwoman Latrelle Joy said “I think we’ve got to give these businesses some relief.”

Joy made the motion to open the easternmost street lane of Avenue K between 13th and 14th Streets and the easternmost on-street parking and sidewalk adjacent to the building for 30 days. Under Joy’s motion, City Manager James Loomis will monitor wind conditions and order the street closed if sustained wind speeds reach or exceed 30 miles per hour.

Some pieces of marble are likely to fall on the northwestern side of the Omni Building, according to building inspector Steve O’Neal.

“I’ve been watching the building nearly daily, and I don’t see anything coming loose except on the northwest corner near the alley,” said O’Neal. “I would recommend under any circumstance that the alley continue to be barricaded.”

The City is pursuing legal action in City of Lubbock v. Lubbock Omni Office, Inc., and Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson said that he anticipates a court date in November for the issue.

The Council unanimously supported reopening the street for the 30-day trial run.

Also discussed by the Council was the possibility to amend the City Council rules regarding the regular City Council meeting times.

“I’m recommending that maybe we look at starting our evening meetings at 5:15 p.m. instead of 6:15 p.m. and start our executive session at 2:30 p.m.,” said Robertson. The meeting ended shortly before 8:30 p.m. Thursday, hours earlier than the meetings in the past two months generally finished.

The item on the agenda was to discuss the possibility of changing meeting times, but no action on the item was to be taken.

Some meetings of the City Council have lasted past midnight in recent history, though Thursday evening’s meeting was the exception. The Council began the majority of items for the work session at 1 p.m. instead of after the meeting.

District Five Councilwoman Karen Gibson weighed in to Robertson, saying “I think, depending on the topics, you’ve got the gavel. If we’ve got a hot topic and you think we need to bring it up first, bring it up first.”

Robertson has said that keeping City employees late costs the City more money. Loomis said that most of the employees that stay for the Council are salaried, so the cost is generally not much higher to the City.

Robertson responded to Gibson, saying “There is no managing this Council when this Council wants to expound upon their wisdom sometimes…We take up 80 percent of the time a lot of times posturing for the camera, in my opinion.”

District Three Councilman Todd Klein, who originally championed moving the meetings from mornings to evenings, discussed the issue.

“Democracy costs money, but I think from what I’ve seen in my years, there’s flex time given to employees that are here, when they’re here in the evening, and bottom line, it’s the will of the Council,” said Klein. “I just think that you have the public that wants to be here or should be afforded that opportunity. One hour, I don’t think, makes a lot of difference, but on principle, as Councilman Hernandez said, it’s the reason we began evening meetings, and with that, I’ll just simply watch the discussion as it goes forward.”

Robertson quipped back, saying “I thank you for proving my point, Mr. Klein.”

Mayor Robertson said that he does not plan to post the item to move meeting times on the agenda again.

The Council also chose to take no action regarding an item to discuss and take action to remove members of the Electric Utility Board due to potential conflicts of interests with some members.

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