City of Lubbock files lawsuit against Omni Building owner - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

City of Lubbock files lawsuit against Omni Building owner

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

The City of Lubbock has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the Omni Building, claiming the building has become a health and safety hazard.

The building has been a point of contention since 2003, when building materials began falling from the exterior of the 11-storey building into the street below.

In 2010, the City's Code Department set a deadline of 90 days for the owner to do something. Nothing was done and the owner was left with over $200,000 in liens.

In 2012, stucco began falling off the building, closing an intersection of downtown Lubbock for almost a week.

And most recently, the spring storms caused even more damage to the building.

"When we had the big storm several months ago, with the 70 mile an hour sustained wind, the pieces of granite started coming loose again. They literally flew for city blocks," Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson said.

The mayor says now, the city has to make a change.

"We're asking that the courts find that the owner either have to repair the building completely or allow us to demolish it," Robertson says.

He says the city council decided to take action because they felt like nothing was being done.

"There's nobody over there working today. I didn't see anybody working over there last week. The building continues to deteriorate and people continue to break into it. They had a fire in the basement last year. Less than six months ago, someone broke in and stole all the copper wire," he said.

The over 50-page lawsuit was filed on Aug. 7 against Lubbock Omni Office, Inc. owner Hung Nguyen of Katy, TX. The lawsuit says three of Nguyen's Houston-based companies are also on the chopping block: Monroe Emergency Care LLC, American Capitol Funding Corporation and Betco Scaffolds Inc.

The building has a total of 11 citations, including failure to maintain the interior, exterior, sidewalks, driveways and parking areas.

The companies listed in the lawsuit have 20 days to respond.

Mayor Robertson says there are three possible outcomes: Nguyen could take the case to court, which Robertson said would be a very long process. Or the owner could bring the building up to code, but the mayor says he's not optimistic.

"I don't see that happening. That building has gone so far now, I've heard estimates of anywhere from $20-22 million to bring it back up to code and make it to where it's useable," Robertson said.

Robertson says he doesn't think Nguyen is willing to spend that much to make the necessary repairs.

The third possibility would be to have the building demolished. Robertson says this would be the worst case scenario because then the burden of paying for demolition and clean-up would fall on the taxpayers.

"We the taxpayers have to pay for that and that's not fair. We've been trying to do everything we could to avoid that, but we've gotten to the point now where we can't sit back any longer. We've just had to file suit in district court and hope for the best."

RELATED STORIES:

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City warns of danger from falling building material downtown

Intersection at former Omni building closed and deemed unsafe

KCBD Investigates: The Omni Building

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