By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Work was begun Wednesday to affix metal plates to the front of 395 West Main St. to draw any falling debris inward should the building collapse.
The Malone Village Board took the precaution on the advice of engineer John Macarthur of Beardsley Design Associates, who said the 90-foot-tall building was in imminent danger of falling down.
State-agency and political representatives are to meet with local officials at 1 p.m. today at the Village Offices to discuss options for the condemned site.
Macarthur has said it could cost the village millions of dollars in liability if nothing is done to the vacant, badly deteriorated building and it were to fall into the street and Salmon River.
FLOORS TOO ROTTED
Village Code Enforcement Officer Jim Haley watched from the street below Wednesday morning as Department of Public Works employee Scott Richards used a lift to hoist an expert to the upper floors to test for asbestos.
Richards said Aaron Jantzi of Gymo Architecture, Engineering and Land Surveying of Watertown happened to be in Malone testing for asbestos at 3 Morton St., where an apartment house was heavily damaged by fire on Jan. 29.
Haley said Jantzi would visually inspect and collect samples while leaning in a window at 395 West Main because the interior floors are so rotted they may not hold the weight of a man safely.
Jantzi was also taken to the roof and used a ladder to reach up and hammer away a section to test.
The code officer said the building has been gutted and that there is likely no Sheetrock, tile or other asbestos-laden material inside. But the village wanted tests to be certain.
“If it does collapse, we want to know if it’s hot or not,” Haley said, adding that removal of the building and the cost of debris disposal depend on the results.
ANCHORED TO JOISTS
Once the asbestos testing was done, DPW staff began the work to secure 2-by-12-foot metal plates to the third-floor, south-facing wall, which is bowed out toward Main Street.
The village had banned pedestrian traffic on the nearby Main Street bridge last week until further notice because of the state of that wall.
The 2½-inch-thick metal plates would be anchored to the original floor joists inside with the hope that if the West Main Street wall did go, the debris would be pushed back into the building.
Haley said he can’t tell how much time those metal plates would buy the village.
“We’re just doing what we can do to try to save somebody from getting hurt,” he said.
Stewart Rowley, who owns For Arts Sake next door, said Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) told him the building is privately owned, so the state, village and town have no jurisdiction.
But the federal government can override that rule if the village deems the site a public threat, which is what Rowley thinks should happen.
He said everyone on his business’s email list was asked “to contact their congressman” and bring more attention to the situation.
“The village should declare the emergency now and get the paperwork to the state” because it could align federal assistance faster, Rowley said.
Email Denise A. Raymo: email@example.com