ELYRIA — The city of Elyria has condemned a building it owns, which was shuttered in 2006 and has since deteriorated to the point of mold and standing water throughout.
The old Elyria City Hall and Elyria Municipal Court at 328 Broad St. has been declared unfit for human occupancy by the city’s Building Department. Now, the city has to determine how it will pay for the building’s demolition, which could top $600,000, according to Mayor Holly Brinda.
“In early March, it became apparent to us that a longtime leaky roof and no heat had caused irreparable damage to the building,” she said. “The building is past use for any type of redevelopment.”
Brinda said one thing driving up the demolition price tag is the building’s location between two other buildings. The most immediate concern is that the building is collapsing and compromising those neighboring structures, she said.
She shared her concerns with members of the City Council Finance Committee on Monday evening. Members listened intently without taking any action and elected to hold off on a decision until Monday.
City Auditor Ted Pileski said finding the money in the budget to pay for such a big unbudgeted expense will not be easy.
“Luckily, I am very conservative with my estimates, so I think we will be able to come up with the money,” he said. “But it’s a shame we can’t carry that money over to combat the cuts we are going to face from the state next year.”
Pileski said it appears inheritance tax revenue will be higher than estimated, so a large portion can come from that. In addition, the city planned to hire a city engineer and set aside a full year’s salary for that position. The job has not been filled, and that money can be used for the building’s demolition.
Fire Chief Rich Benton said the building has severe structural deficiencies. He was in the building July 27 taking pictures of the damage and showed Council members a slideshow of the crumbling building. Huge cracks in the foundation and load bearing walls were evident.
“The worst thing that could happen with this building is one of the beams in the basement could give way,” Benton said. “That could cause a collapse of the building from the basement on up to the third floor. A collapse of that magnitude could push the outer walls onto the streets. At this point, I could not in good conscience even allow our firefighters to go in this building if there was fire.”
The city’s Chief Building Inspector Phil Lahetta said he placed the condemnation notice on the building Monday, giving the city 60 days to fix violations or demolish it.
Aaron Klein, the city’s assistant city engineer, said the plan calls for asbestos abatement and full demolition. The lot would then become green space that could be redeveloped at a later date.
Klein said time is of the essence.
“The longer we wait, the more unsafe the building will be for a company to come in to do the asbestos remediation,” he said. “If we wait and they cannot go in to do the asbestos remediation safely, the entire building would have to just be demolished. Then, all of the debris would be considered contaminated with asbestos and would have to be disposed at the higher rate.”
Brinda said she is not happy about the expense, but the problem can’t be ignored.
“I would much rather spend $600,000 to pave streets, hire more police officers or create a revolving loan fund to spur economic development,” she said.
“Instead, we have to spend this money to fix a problem we did not create. But I assure you this time of inaction will not happen again.”
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said she once worked in the building and was just amazed at how the building was left when the previous administration moved out and into the current City Hall on Court Street.
“There is a box of doughnuts on the first floor, computers, software and just dozens of chairs and desks,” she said. “There is nothing in the building that is salvageable, and I won’t even go back in the building without the fire chief because I’m afraid I would go right through the floorboards. Yes, that building should never have been left in that condition, but it was, and now we have to do something about it.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.