Cost of Shamokin Street tear-down slows project; EPA deadline is Nov. 25
SHAMOKIN - Debris removal at a demolition site on North Shamokin Street is again on temporary hold, this time due to cost concerns.
A directive from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dispose of all material as if it contained asbestos is causing the project costs to "escalate," the city's clerk said Wednesday.
That means bagging the material inside plastic laid into a rolloff and having an asbestos abatement professional on site, among other provisions.
Asked how the city would pay for the project, Steve Bartos said, "I guess we'll have to. We don't have a choice."
The money isn't in the 2012 budget, he said, and it will have to come from next year's budget, and they'll look to use Community Development Block Grant funding.
Bartos denied that the project was put on hold because the city could not afford to pay the contractor.
"That's not true," he said.
The combined cost to dispose of 10 tons of debris is $1,652, Bartos said, and city officials are looking to lower the price tag.
Bartos broke down the total: disposal fee, $78 per ton; hauling fee, $400, and a 40 percent asbestos abatement fee.
"What we're doing now is we're looking for a better avenue, a less expensive way," said R. Craig Rhoades, city councilman and director of public safety.
Approximately 15 loads already have been hauled to and disposed at Lycoming County Landfill at a combined estimated cost of $25,000, Bartos said, with an invoice having been submitted by Madonna Enterprises, the general contractor on the project.
Evans Disposal LLC, Bloomsburg, is subcontracted to haul the debris to the landfill, Bartos said.
Bartos said the city is seeking quotes from local haulers in the hope of lowering the hauling fee.
Madonna originally submitted what Bartos called a demolition estimate of $8,900. The disposal costs are outside that estimate, he said.
The project began under emergency order and was never put to bid.
'Should be done by now'
A detailed final estimate has since been requested from Madonna Enterprises, Bartos said, and work should resume Monday.
There isn't much debris left on the surface to dispose of; however, backfill used at the site by a previous contractor must be dug out and disposed of, as does any remaining below-ground material from the buildings' basements.
Bartos said the city will look to lower both the disposal and hauling fees. He is setting up an account at the landfill that should allow the city to receive a 5-percent discount. The landfill charges $64/ton for disposal of asbestos material, and he's hoping to lower the contractor's markup on that price charged to the city.
Bartos said the EPA put a month-end deadline for the debris to be removed. Reached Tuesday, Vince Madonna of Madonna Enterprises was more specific: Nov. 25.
"We should have actually been done by now," he said.
Two vacant commercial buildings in the 700 block of North Shamokin Street partially collapsed in mid-June and an emergency order was issued by the city to knock them down.
Robert Gusick Demolition, Shamokin, did just that, but after he began hauling away material, its owner and city officials became engaged in an as-yet unsettled dispute over project scope and the firm's $98,500 estimate.
More problems followed after a city resident raised concerns that asbestos was left exposed at the dormant demolition site since work was officially ordered stopped there in early July. A test privately commissioned in August on piping insulation alleged to have been taken from the site was positive for asbestos.
EPA inspectors visited the site in October and removed eight samples, all of which were shared with the city for independent testing by both entities.
Of the samples commissioned for testing by the city, one returned positive for asbestos, Bartos said.
The EPA has not released its results and is not commenting on the issue until an investigation is completed, for which no time-estimate is available, a spokeswoman previously said.
Chainlink fencing was brought to the site this month to prevent unimpeded access that had been available to any passerby since the buildings were demolished.
The now demolished buildings were listed in repository by Northumberland County for unpaid property taxes, and the city has placed a $125,000 lien on the pair. Steps have been taken by the city to purchase the properties for $1.
Bartos expressed frustration that Shamokin is being held solely responsible for demolition costs of the property. He believes the three taxing bodies - the city, Northumberland County and Shamokin Area School District - should share the responsibility.
"Why does it fall on us? I don't understand this," Bartos said.
While he recognized the city's responsibility for public safety, he questioned whether the city should take any steps in the future to prevent a building collapse if it's going to be stuck with the bill.
"This is a big legal question that needs to be answered," he said.
Vinny Clausi, chairman of the county commissioners, agreed with Bartos that in the event of knocking down a building that is in repository, the three taxing bodies should share the cost, divided up on a percentage basis based on how much tax each collects on the property.
The county paid $20,000 toward the demolition of a collapsed building on Market Street that was torn down earlier this year, which he said not only covered the county's share but also the school district's.
The school district denied to pay anything, citing financial constraints.
However, Clausi strongly disagreed with how the North Shamokin Street demolition project has been handled.
After the initial danger was abated by knocking a corner of the building down, Clausi said the remaining demolition and debris removal should have been put to bid.
"If they would have done it by the book, I would have paid my share. I'm not giving one dollar to the City of Shamokin because they don't know how to manage money," he said.
Clausi said he didn't think the city would find a lower hauling fee, calling the $78 per ton cost "a bargain." The landfill fee is lower, sure, but it's not going to be hauled there for free, he said, citing fuel costs alone among reasons for overhead on the fee.