November 28, 2014

Elyria
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Cost to raze former City Hall will be at high end of estimates

ELYRIA — The demolition of the old Elyria City Hall is turning into the city’s worst-case scenario.

When it was learned earlier this year the former Sears department store would need to be razed, city officials hoped the building could be brought down without affecting the buildings on either side.

But City Engineer Tim Ujvari said the building shares walls with the two neighboring buildings and those walls will have to remain with some bracing in the process.

The project has a $600,000 ceiling, a figure that had been lower but was elevated early on in case the project affected other buildings.

“We tried to anticipate for the worse-case scenario and unfortunately, we are going to be at the worst-case scenario,” Mayor Holly Brinda said.

As early as next week, crews could start cordoning the property with a privacy fence and begin removing the contents of the three-story building. Inside, there still is office furniture, old records and junk in a building filled with the stench of standing water and mold.

Brinda said some preliminary demolition work will allow crews to gain access behind walls and abate asbestos in the building.

“We hired a contractor that has ensured us that this building can come down, but it will be a very delicate process,” Brinda said.

The building could be gone by the end of the year.

Chief Building Inspector Phil Lahetta condemned the building and declared it unfit for human occupancy, while Fire Chief Richard Benton has told city officials that the building is in danger of collapsing.

Several weeks ago, while a crew was working on the rear of the building in a large truck with a bucket, the ground beneath the truck gave way and caused a 6-feet by 10-feet sinkhole just outside the back door. The boiler room of the building was exposed until city officials covered the area with large steel plates.

Benton has long said the building has severe structural deficiencies. Months ago when he inspected the building, he noted huge cracks in the foundation and load-bearing walls.

“At this point, I could not in good conscience even allow our firefighters to go in this building if there was fire,” he said in July.

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