Fort Worth has halted demolitions of substandard structures after two houses were wrongly demolished this summer in the North Texas city.
City leaders say human error was the cause in both cases, though the circumstances of how each demolition happened are different.
The latest incident of a structure being razed that should have stayed standing happened on July 11, but was only discovered while investigating the incorrect July 12 demolition of a home on the edge of Lake Worth.
The July 11 incident happened on 1300 block of Lagonda Avenue, near Northside Drive and Jacksboro Highway. The city's Building Standards Commission gave the go ahead to demolish a house on the property that was heavily damaged by fire last year. City contractor Garrett Demolition arrived to demolish that house, which was witnessed by several neighbors.
"Oh yeah, they did everything the same day, I was shocked because they did it so fast," said Beatrice Garcia.
But the contractor knocked down more than what the contract called for, taking out a perfectly livable and safe structure on the backside of the property. The work order only detailed the destruction of the first home with pictures and a site map of the one home.
"This is a case of human error," said city spokesman Bill Begley. "The contractor went a step further than he was supposed to."
A neighbor says the family did have keepsakes and property in the back home and were upset by the demolition.
One day later, July 12, the same contractor, code officer and code supervisor were involved in the razing of a home on Watercress Drive near Lake Worth. Staff had marked the wrong home on the wrong property.
The code supervisor is now on paid administrative leave as an investigation continues in both incidents. A code officer reported the destruction of the Lagonda Avenue structure to his supervisor, but the city says that never went up the chain of command.
And until better safeguards can be put into place the city has halted all other demolitions.
"And what they're trying to do now is put in place more accountability, more documentation, more eyes on the whole process," Begley said.
Once finalized, new rules and requirements will be presented to the city council in September. Though the council does not need to take any action on the changes, staff wants to keep the elected leaders informed.
"The whole idea is to take the human error element out of the process and ensure that something like this doesn't happen again," Begley said.
The city is also reviewing all other demolition projects involving Garrett Demolition, which won 38 of 53 bids to demolish substandard houses for the city this fiscal year.
The city says it is working with both property owners and the contractor to find a fair resolution for all involved in the demolition mix-ups.