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La Hacienda fire code violations released

March 2, 2018 GMT

The Midland County Attorney’s Office released a partial list of fire code violations discovered over the weekend at La Hacienda Event Center, located on Highway 191 in Midland County.

The violations outlined by the State of Texas Fire Marshal’s office forced the event center to close its doors over the weekend, but whether the event center should be open or closed seems to be up in the air.

Some of the violations listed Wednesday included no accountability for the number of occupants in the building during events, emergency lighting was inoperable throughout the building, a lack of exit signs, some of the exit doors being locked and others requiring excessive force to open, as well as several fire sprinkler and electrical issues.

While La Hacienda employees confirmed both Tuesday and Wednesday the event center remains open, Midland County officials disagreed.

“If they said they reopened then they violated state rules,” Midland County Judge Mike Bradford said Wednesday. “Let’s be clear from Midland County’s perspective they are under a closed order from the county’s perspective.”

Jerry Hagins, an agency spokesman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said it was his understanding the Midland County Fire Marshal gave the order for La Hacienda to close its doors based on the inspections the state did Friday and he had not heard anything about the event center being able to reopen.

“The state fire marshal’s office would probably want to know if they were operating,” Hagins said.

Typical procedure would be for the fire marshal’s office would be to do an inspection, have an exit interview with the owner of the establishment, go over major findings verbally and then prepare a report that would list violations and list what needs to be corrected, he said.

The office then tries to get the report out within 30 days, but Hagins said they typically average much quicker than that and in this case, they are trying to expedite the report. Once the problems are corrected, the building would have to be inspected again before being re-opened.

La Hacienda’s attorney Israel Guardiola is arguing proper protocol was not followed in this case, though. Guardiola said the Midland County Fire Marshal’s Office only verbally shut them down with a threat, saying the owners would be arrested if they reopened rather than providing a report and getting a court order to get an injunction to shut down the building.

“Our position is, the order and manner of which they did it (shut them down) is not valid under the code. You can’t just say, ‘you’re shut down.’ I think there’s a procedure that needs to be followed and that includes providing adequate notice and why you’re shutting them down … so they can address and correct those issues and get back to business as usual,” Guardiola said.

While the event center is “not open” in terms of events, Guardiola said they are still selling tickets for scheduled events and the only thing happening in the building right now is construction to correct the fire code violations they were made aware of.

“As to whether we’re closed right now, our position is that they haven’t validly or effectively closed us down, but there’s no business going on so it’s a moot issue,” he said.

The attorney said they will be present for a special meeting of the Midland County Commissioners Court at 3:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss and address everything and if the county commissioners tell them they must shut down, Guardiola said they will respect the county commissioners, what their decisions are and that they want a cooperative, working relationship with them.

Bradford said the special meeting was already called to discuss other agenda items, but an item to discuss La Hacienda was added due to the business appearing during a regular meeting Monday wanting to address the court, but unable to since they were not on the regular meeting agenda.

La Hacienda posted a statement to their Facebook page Wednesday calling for patrons to attend the meeting if they would like to voice a complaint or have video images of the events that took place during the fire safety inspection Friday night, for which about 30 Midland County Sheriff’s Office deputies were present.

“A number of complaints have been voiced by patrons of La Hacienda as well as La Hacienda ownership regarding the manner in which the inspection was conducted as well as the conduct of some of the deputies during the course of the events that took place that night,” the post stated.

Guardiola said the deputies arrested numerous people for public intoxication during the inspection.