WASKOM — The Waskom City Council recently awarded its 2019 downtown building demolition project bid to Abatement Services Inc., of Shreveport, Louisiana, who proposed to do the job at a cost of $96,307.
“There’s three or four old buildings that were built back in the mid 1920s/early 30s — maybe — that belong to the city,” said Waskom Mayor Jesse Moore.
“They have become such a liability for the city and they’re in such bad shape that nobody can possibly go in there and redo them and make anything to where they can get their money back out of them,” he explained. “So if they have become such a liability, we want to go ahead and tear them down.”
Moore said the demolition is part of a project the city has taken on to get rid of old, non-functioning buildings, such as the old, caved-in bank the city had bulldozed at a cost of more than $53,000 about two years ago.
The current demolition project, located at U.S. Highway 80 and Jernigan Street, will be torn down to the yellow building, which currently houses a flea market/antique store. The portion to be torn down is abandoned and empty.
“They’ll probably be starting (demolition) by the end of this month or the first part of August,” said Moore. “They’ll just do it — like (what was done) at the bank — down to the dirt lot.”
The part of the building being demolished last housed an auto parts shop, up until about a couple of years ago. It has a pier-and-beam foundation and footings with some concrete.
Moore shared how bittersweet the demolition project is as the old buildings possess sentimental value, serving as a good reminder of yesteryear when the buildings were the hub of the city.
“I hate to do it, because those buildings, they were ‘Waskom’ when I was a boy,” he smiled. “We had the grocery store; we had the post office; we had the barbershop.
“We had a five-and-dime store,” he reminisced, recalling how a woman operated the five-and-dime store while her husband ran a sporting good store in another part of the facility.
“And then we had the doctor’s office,” Moore continued. “And where H&R Auto used to be they called it a (prescription) drug store, but it didn’t sell any drugs or anything, it was really a soda shop. You can go in there and sit up on those old stools at the counter and (the manager) would make you a Coke float or whatever you wanted.”
The buildings all faced the old U.S. Highway 80, which is now Waskom Avenue.
Moore said the city hopes the demolition work of old, abandoned buildings in downtown Waskom will lead to a broader undertaking to make downtown more appealing.
“We would love to revitalize downtown; and what we’re hoping for is once we get these old buildings torn down that somebody might want to come in there and build something new or we may even put something in there, I don’t know,” said Moore. “… just to try to beautify and get a little more attention to the little downtown area.”
“We’re trying to get the place cleaned up, beautified, and bring everybody we can in here,” the mayor said.