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City deals with code violator

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By David Giuliani

On Wednesday night, Las Vegas resident Tony Ortega was called a “one-man wrecking crew for the image of Las Vegas.” And it was suggested that the city pursue criminal charges against Ortega.

Last year, the city entered agreements with Ortega to clean up his properties in the Railroad Avenue area or the city would take care of the problems itself.

Ortega, who has been dealing with the city’s code enforcement officers for decades, didn’t act. As such, the city asked for bids from companies to clean up Ortega’s properties, which contain inoperable vehicles and other junk. The winning firm would get the right to sell any of the salvageable items, possibly for scrap metal value.

During the bidding process, Ortega started to move items off the properties, so the bidders weren’t sure what would be left should they get the contract — making the possible revenue from the items a moving target, officials said.

Elmer Martinez, the city’s community development director, said the firms bid up their prices because they weren’t sure what would be left on the properties. The bids ended up being around $200,000.

The city ordered Ortega not to interfere during the bidding process, but he did anyway, Martinez said.

City Manager Timothy Dodge said that for two of the properties, city crews could take care of the problems themselves without going through private contractors because Ortega had removed so many items. And Martinez said the city would go to state District Court to file the appropriate motions to make sure Ortega doesn’t interfere again.

“Can we send the police chief to get this guy?” Councilman Morris Madrid asked.

City Attorney Carlos Quiñones said Ortega is already in violation of a court order and that it was important for the city to keep its legal options open.

Madrid suggested the stiffest consequences for Ortega.

“He’s been a one-man wrecking crew for the image of Las Vegas,” he said, referring to the junk piled up on Ortega’s properties along Interstate 25.

Mayor Tony Marquez said he wanted to “close the infinite loop” in the city’s dealings with Ortega.

The council voted 3-0 to reject the bids for the project to clean up Ortega’s properties and go out for new bids.

In another action, the City Council voted unanimously to begin proceedings against Ortega at his property at 1502 Commerce St., which is along I-25.

Ortega has been moving much of the junk from his Railroad properties to those along I-25. City officials have vowed to take care of that problem, especially since this area is seen by travelers through Las Vegas.

In an interview Thursday morning, Ortega said he was working to clean up the properties and meet his obligations under an agreement with the city.

“The contract I signed with them was too much to move in the time they gave me. We have already cleaned four of the properties,” Ortega said. “It’s more than I anticipated.”