Catoosa trustees agonized over decisions regarding the possible demolition of two buildings at the regular city council meeting Monday night.

Following an extended period of discussion and deliberation, the Catoosa City Council voted 3-2 to follow through with demolition of a dilapidated building at 430 South Cherokee. Originally, owner Ed Barstow had been given 120 days to renovate the structure or at least come up with an acceptable plan to bring it up to code. That time had lapsed when, on November 6 of this year, trustees voted to demolish the building.

Barstow was present at the December 18 meeting, but had not been there November 6 when the original decision was made to demolish.

"I didn't understand that I needed to be there," said Barstow, who admitted that he knew the building was on the agenda in November.Barstow bought the property in 1999 and let a local church use it for free for two years. He put a new roof on the north end and had planned to remodel the building for office or light retail use. In 2004 when he attempted to replace the siding, workers tore off the old Masonite and found no sheeting underneath. This unanticipated problem, along with the need to revise plans for adjacent parking, caused unexpected delays.

"I'm not asking for any special favors," said Barstow when he presented plans for remodeling to the council. "I just ask for the opportunity to make my property worth while and something the city can be proud of."

Barstow cited his 26 years of doing business within the community and involvement in community support during times of need.

City council members wanted to give Barstow a chance to rehabilitate the property, but voiced concerns over how long the process had taken so far and whether they could put a time limit on the remodeling process. City attorney Ron Berry advised that rescinding the demolition order would start the process over legally, and it would be a matter of taking Barstow's word that he would follow through this time. Trustees could legally put a time limit on starting construction, but not on progress or completion.

Also up for discussion was an appeal by Richard and Gena Hildebrand concerning the demolition of a dilapidated building at 1440 North 154th Avenue. In response to a letter from the Hildebrand's attorney, trustees voted to notify said attorney of steps the Hildebrands need to take to secure the building to the council's satisfaction and gave them 30 days to do so.

In other council business, Tom Jenkins reported on grant writing accomplishments for Catoosa Fire Department for the year 2005-06. Jenkins helped the department clear up several grants left over from a previous administration. The fire department also received a grant from the Direct Assistance Program administered by Homeland Security. The grant provided hydraulic Jaws of Life valued at $25-30,000.

"He greatly helped us," said Fire Chief Dennus Benton. Trustees renewed Jenkins' contract for the upcoming year.

Planning commission bylaws were updated and renewed with minor changes. Based on committee recommendations, the mayor's salary was increased from $37,000 annually with $500 monthly benefits for health insurance and retirement to $42,000 annually with a $650 per month benefit package. This is the first increase in annual salary for the mayor since 1998.



Joy Hamtpon covers Catoosa and Verdigris. Contact her at baseybunch@mac.com.