Resolutions passed by Laredo city council concerning Hamilton Hotel

Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 12:12 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - On Monday, April 3, several resolutions were passed pertaining to the Hamilton Hotel including one that deals with a public health concern.

The Hamilton Housing Apartment Complex Organization is an independent apartment complex, managed by Capstone Management hired by the Laredo Housing Finance Corporation. The Laredo Housing Finance Corporation is a nonprofit group that was established years ago and the board was established by a former mayor. The appointment of the board is the only input by the city of Laredo. The city does not own, operate, lease, or manage the units from Hamilton, according to City of Laredo Community Development Director Tina Martinez. Martinez stated that the city can only help the board with guidance.

The first issue addressed by District 4 council member Alberto Torres was the renting price hike. Some tenants have applied through the city’s rental assistance program and received help for their rent through it. Currently, there are 165 units at the Hamilton Hotel. Martinez told the council that at a previous board meeting, they addressed the concerns of 15 residents who would be seeing an increase of $200 in their rent.

Martinez told the council that the hotel is in the “red,” saying the “revenues are not matching the expenses,” therefore, they need all the tenants to pay the same amount of rent. If the hotel goes under, the board would have to take over, but they do not have any funds at this time.

The city manager, Joseph Neeb, stated city officials have been going over this issue for weeks. The first solution was to get extra vouchers for the residents who are seeing a rent hike, but there are no vouchers available now. The tenants would have to be put on a waiting list. The second solution is trying to get third-party funding.

Neeb addressed the number of repairs that “have not been done” and wants to understand “why it’s in the state that it is.” Neeb recommended having the hotel management “open their books” so the city can see “why there was a problem in the first place” and have a long conversation with the board and the management on the issues.

The second issue addressed by Vanessa Perez, council member for District 7, was regarding rent control. Perez asked the council to make a recommendation to state representatives Richard Raymond and Tracy King as well as state senator Judith Zaffirini to look into the state level regarding rent control, “especially for communities like these that have fixed incomes,” Perez said.

Both Neeb and Perez’s recommendations were put up for a vote. Torres abstained since he owns property, and the motion passed.

The third issue brought forward was about possible evictions. Torres asked management to have a letter drawn up by the legal department and the city manager asking “the corporation not to evict any of these tenants.” That motion was passed by the council.

The fourth issue addressed was bed bugs. Melissa Cigarroa, council member for District 3, addressed the concern of bed bugs spreading from one unit to the next. According to the city of Laredo health director, Dr. Richard Chamberlin, the health department met with the hotel management in March. “Because these are privately owned [apartments], we are not able to impede. We did visit them on March 23, but we were not allowed access to them,” Dr. Chamberlin said.

Mayor Dr. Victor Trevino asked if the city can inspect for bed bugs through the public health provisions. Dr. Chamberlain said, “Yes if I’m not mistaken. If the council would declare it a public health emergency, it would grant us access to be able to provide those recommendations. Our team did visit with the managing partners and there have been several recommendations, Of course, we have shared with Community Development to start with general hygiene.”

Vanessa Perez requested to add a public health emergency to the bed bug issue at the hotel. Mayor Dr. Trevino said, “This is not a one-time deal, we know that bed bugs are resistant. I think it constitutes a public health issue at this point.” Dr. Tyler King, the council member for District 6, addressed concern about using the term “public emergency” regarding the bed bug issues, to which Dr. Chamberlin stated that although they have not inspected the building other entities have said there is a “cleanliness” issue that has to be resolved. Dr. Chamberlin stated that before a resolution is passed, the logistics of how the city would conduct it would have to be talked about first. Neeb agreed, asking the council to give them two weeks to prepare a resolution before declaring the bed bug issues at the Hamilton as a public health concern. The city hopes to work with the management and the board before the two weeks.

The fifth issue addressed was security. Dr. Trevino stated that homeless people have entered the building and have been sleeping inside. Ricardo Gonzalez, deputy chief of the Laredo Police Department, told the council there had “been complaints in this particular building” and are working with management to increase police in the area. Alyssa Cigarroa, the council member for District 8, asked Community Development Director Tina Martinez what previous security measures were in place. Martinez stated residents had a key card to allow people in and out of the building. She added that hiring a security guard was above the management’s budget.

Council member Torres stated that the Laredo Housing Finance Corporation was created over 40 years ago and began to handle dealings related to the Hamilton Housing Apartment Complex Organization in 2001. He asked the council to look into the group and its powers.

Council approved a motion to look into the corporation and the housing complex and its powers and to give the council two weeks on the bed bugs concerns. 

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