November 29, 2014

Elyria
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Former Elyria City Hall coming down after Council funds demolition

ELYRIA — The crumbling hazard at 328 Broad St., once a department store, City Hall and Municipal Court, is coming down sooner rather than later as City Council resigned itself Monday evening to accepting the $600,000 price tag for the building’s demolition.

It was learned a week ago that the building, which the city abandoned in 2007 for a new City Hall on Court Street and a new Municipal Court on Broad Street, has become a haven for mold, mildew and structural deficiency, which prompted a condemnation order by the city Building Department.

But it was the early estimate that it will cost more than half a million dollars to bring the building down that caused Council to balk at agreeing to immediate demolition.

But after many people spoke to the condition of the building during Monday’s meeting, Council said it had no choice but to authorize the expense, even though it will severely diminish the city’s ability to save money for next year.

“This is an emergency situation,” said Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large. “There is no question about it. We need to get it done as expeditiously as possible. It’s going to start raining, and that building is only going to get worse.”

But spending such a large amount unexpectedly in a year when the city is trying to brace for projected funding cuts is not easy.

City Auditor Ted Pileski said he estimated this year’s revenue funds very conservatively so any additional revenue that comes in over estimates could be carried over to 2013. The state’s estate tax, which ends after this year, is expected to have $240,000 more than estimated, but instead of saving that money, it will have to be used to demolish the building.

That money will be added to the $180,000 the city had to remove from the road resurfacing program earlier this year and the year’s amount for salaries for employees who are needed but have not been hired — assistant safety service director and city engineer.

“I wish we could use this money as carry over because we will definitely need it when the state cuts come,” Pileski said.

But waiting is not an option.

Fire Chief Rich Benton, who has been in the building checking for collapse possibilities, said it’s hard to tell just how long the building has because the brick walls and beams are covered with drywall and plaster.

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“But based on my 24 years of service in the Fire Department and knowledge of other buildings in the city, you don’t have a lot of time,” he said to Council. “It depends on the freeze-and-thaw process and how much snow we get to determine how soon that building will last before it crumbles under the pressure.”

There is also no way to answer the many questions Council members have concerning the building including a better timeline on the trajectory of the damage, the possibility of damage to the building’s shared walls with adjoining buildings and the likelihood the demolition would have to include shoring up those shared walls to prevent the collapse of adjacent buildings.

Jeffery Spangler, registered structural engineer in Ohio and project manager with R. E. Warner and Associations, said the estimate Council members received was without doing any exploratory demolition of the building because of asbestos concerns or the original building plans. Those questions will have to be answered during demolition, he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.