Posted: Oct 24, 2012 6:24 PM
Updated: Oct 25, 2012 12:05 AM
SAN BENITO - The Stonewall Jackson Hotel has shuttered its doors. The move comes after the city of San Benito cited the owner for more than a dozen safety code violations.
Code enforcement officers uncovered 19 fire and code enforcement violations, city officials said.
"The city is not trying to take this building down. If people are going to be occupying it, they should be safe and out of harm's way," San Benito City Manager Art Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the rooms were overcrowded and residents did not have hot water. The city had to step in to prevent an accident from happening, he said.
"There are no current, usable fire extinguishers. Several beams remain unsafe," Rodriguez said.
Stonewall Jackson owner Omar Cuevas of Pharr never returned requests for an interview.
City officials said Cuevas made few improvements since late August, when he was ordered to address problems at the building.
"There is a process that has to take place. The owner, or any owner, has a certain amount of time to fix this," Rodriguez said.
Cuevas will have to appear in court and could face steep fines, Rodriguez said.
A group of tenants said they were evicted from the hotel, but were not given a refund.
"If they paid for the month of October and were asked to leave within a two-week period of October, they are due the remaining two weeks. A lot of the landlords will not pay them back because they figure the tenant doesn't know that," Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace David Garza said.
He said tenants can file a lawsuit with the small-claims court. The filing fee can be waived if the tenants are indigent. For more information, call Garza's office at 956-361-8257.