FORT WORTH -- Behind the closed Theresa B. Lee Academy Charter High School sit three buildings once likely used as portable classrooms that neighborhood residents say have turned into havens for vagrants.
On Monday, the city's Building Standards Commission unanimously voted to declare those portable buildings on East Lancaster Avenue substandard and to give the owner -- whom city officials say they have not been able to contact for some time -- 30 days to repair and secure them.
"We took the first step," said Michael Phipps, a nearby resident and code compliance chairman for the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association. "Now we have to wait it out."
He and other residents say the buildings behind the school at 4327 E. Lancaster Ave. have attracted vagrants who appear to occupy them at times. The buildings have easy access for passers-by, in addition to holes in the walls, exposed wiring, pieces of foundation missing and damaged doors.
On Monday, the site was littered with trash, and the buildings' doors were open. Some of the buildings apparently still contain old textbooks. No fences block access to the buildings.
"It appears as if the owners didn't even close the doors, just walked away," Phipps told the commission. "It's housing for vagrants in the area."
He said there likely were "drinking and drugging" and other activities in the buildings, turning it into an eyesore and nuisance.
State officials ordered the charter school closed in 2008 after officials failed to turn in required financial audits, which are required of public schools. The school had been monitored by state officials for about three years for cheating on state tests in 2005.
Notice of the problems has been given to the property owner for more than a year.
City staffers said they have tried to contact the owner at multiple locations but have not received any response by phone or mail.
The owner, listed on city documents as T. Arthurlene Jackson, now has 30 days to secure and repair the buildings or face city fines and other penalties, city officials said.
"It's a magnet for vagrants," said Wanda Conlin of the East Fort Worth Business Association. "They live there. They do their business there.
"This is a hazard and it needs to be done away with."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610