EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Several city-owned buildings in the Union Plaza neighborhood may remain exposed to the elements after city manager Tommy Gonzalez and city attorney Karla Nieman say a lawsuit is keeping them from touching them.

Three months ago, the El Paso City Council voted unanimously to reinforce the buildings in what is known as the Duranguito neighborhood, where the city intends on building a multipurpose performing arts and entertainment center.

But months later, Nieman and Gonzalez say a lawsuit and agreement with historic preservationist Max Grossman is keeping them from touching the buildings.

“The background talks about discuss and create a plan on how Union Plaza may be protected from winter weather and potential fire damage to the buildings during winter months,” Gonzalez said. “I am not saying we’re not doing that. I am just saying because of the litigation, the way the litigation has shifted, there’s just different variables that have to be taken into consideration.”

The buildings were damaged four years ago when demolition crews poked holes in several of the properties, which were later purchased by the city.

On Tuesday, the City Council discussed the subject as city representatives Alexsandra Annello, Joe Molinar and Claudia Rodriguez wanted an update on the work to reinforce the buildings. The discussion was about securing the Union Plaza neighborhood during winter months.

Multiple members of the community called into the meeting to push the council to vote in favor of preserving the neighborhood.

“I am really disappointed in the response from staff today,” Annello said. “We had a conversation three months ago about what we could legally do and what we couldn’t to secure the buildings… We are here three months later with no response on that.”

Annello said the concern is not to preserve the buildings but to reinforce holes in them to prevent people from going inside them and to prevent against fires.

“These are our buildings,” she said. “We are expecting private citizens to take care of their property and we are not willing to have a conversation about doing it to our own.”

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