City officials working on old movie theater, water tower

Staff Writer
Alice Echo News Journal
The Railto movie theater had become a dangerous situation for the City of Alice. Demolition on the building began Saturday.

The City of Alice has been trying to fix the latest issues with an old movie theater and the iconic Coyote water tower.

The movie theater, Rialto, on downtown Main Street has been vacate for approximately 40 years and has been deteriorating ever since. In recent years, the inside of the movie theater began to cave in.

In the last month, the Rialto has become even more of an eyesore for people downtown. In July, the outside of the building began to show what was happening on the inside. The City of Alice barricade the front entrance, for safety precautions, and began to investigate what needed to be done.

“Last council meeting, the (city) council approved a proposal from the demolition company. Since then, we've met with the demolition...on coming up with a plan on demolition and the specs they are going to do; time frame and things like that,” said Michael Esparza, Alice City Manager.

On Thursday, Esparza was called by the demolition company who will start work on Saturday. The process will take approximately two weeks to complete.

“I got a phone call that they are going to start on Saturday. It is an emergency usually the paperwork that has to be submitted to the state takes about two weeks to come back, but (the demolition company) is telling us that they're going to submit it and start within 24 hours.

The demolition company will start with the front, take everything out and then they'll get a man lift and they'll do it by hand, and start chipping away on the concrete on the top. The retaining walls on the side and side steps will remain, but the roof and debris from inside will be removed.

The city and the demolition company are worried about the neighboring businesses and have blocked of a section of the road. On Friday morning, city crews prepared the area for the demolition company's arrival.

“The council approved our proposal to get it done and so it's following that process. I think it's actually happening pretty quick,” Esparza said. “For our part, with our codes and inspections we need to make sure that places are safe for customers and our citizens, actually. The businesses need to make sure that they are safe for their customers. We need to make sure they are safe for our citizens. So what we can do on a regular bases? What we are looking at the overheads and awnings and things like that. And it there's something that catches the code's eye that needs to be looked at we are certainly going to look at that. We've talked about that from a staff level so we're developing a plan for that as well. I know that the council and the mayor are concerned about that as well.”

The other project that the city is working on is the Coyote water tower located on Front Street and close to the city hall. The water tower has been barricaded for approximately two weeks.

“So what happened is that a little bit after (Hurricane Hannah) came through with some high winds. Our parks crews, who maintain the area, found three concrete the size of bricks. That was a concern for us,” Esparaza said. “We don't know if it was the high winds or the natural aging of the concrete...We put temporary barricades further out from where the fence is and contacted a fence company.”

Esparza said they talked to the fence company on Thursday and the company has pulled the permits to start the fence. The city is also researching old studies on the water tower to help them determine what is their next step.

The concrete water tower was built in 1927 and is 165 feet tall.

“Life expectancy of the concrete water tower is probably passed. I'd like to to see if there's anyway to renovate it first. Then, we have to way out the costs, Esparza said. “We talked about it at the budget workshop and the mayor brought it up to see what would it take to renovate it versus just demolition. We have a kind of a ball park on it's demolition. Probably anywhere from $150,000 to $160,000 range...One of the difference from water towers elsewhere is they're not this tall and it's right next to the railroad which sends a lot of vibrations through it.”

Esparza and the city are concerned about what will happen to the water tower.

“If something needs to be done we are going to take action. The council wants to take action,” he said. “We are going to find out if its going to be demolition time or renovation time. Regardless, something is going to happen.”

The Coyote water tower has been barricade due to "brick-sized" pieces of concrete that fall during Hurricane Hannah. A fence is being installed around the water tower.