Fort Worth says “employee error” contributed to wrecking of wrong house

Posted Friday, Jul. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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“Employee error contributed” to the demolition last week of the wrong house on a street that runs beside Lake Worth, and city officials are “tightening administrative procedures” to ensure no repeats in the future, the city said Friday.

“With the [initial] investigation and review of procedures completed, the city is now focused on working with the owners of the ... property to provide appropriate resolution to this unfortunate situation,” city spokesman Bill Begley said said in a news release.

The city hired a contractor to demolish a substandard house at 9708 Watercress Drive in far northwest Fort Worth. But on July 12, the contractor tore down the wrong house, a vacant house at 9716 Watercress Drive next door.

The release didn’t say what the city employee’s error was.

City Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who represents the area, said a code compliance staffer “marked the wrong house.”

“The contractor checked to make sure no utilities were connected,” Shingleton said. “They went in to ensure nobody was there. They knocked it down. I think that’s the extent of it.

“We dropped the ball here. We should be ensuring procedures are in place so this doesn’t happen again.”

Shingleton’s assistant, Sami Roop, has been helping the homeowner, David Underwood, navigate the city bureaucracy.

Begley said revisions of city procedures are being worked on and he expects them to be made public next week.

The 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath home, built in 1951, carries a $122,200 market value on the Tarrant Appraisal District website — $82,200 in improvements and a $40,000 lot value.

The home had been in the Underwood family for years. Underwood said this week that he and his wife had put their southwest Fort Worth home up for sale and were expecting to move to the house beside the lake.

In an earlier case, a Stop Six couple, Ernest and Verna Leck, have sued the city, saying a 50-foot-by-50-foot building they own on Amanda Avenue was mistakenly demolished.

Ernest Leck ran a grocery store there but closed it in 2000. It was vacant at the time of the demolition, the Lecks said.

The couple had been asking for $150,000 before filing suit, and the city didn’t make a counteroffer, Verna Leck said.

“It’s about dollars and cents,” she said earlier this week.

City officials have declined to comment on the Leck case because it’s in litigation.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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