By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — State inspectors, elected officials and code officers will brainstorm Thursday about the possible collapse of a condemned building here.
To do nothing about the empty structure at 395 West Main St. would sidestep initial expenses “but would place the public safety at extreme risk,” said Engineer John Macarthur of Beardsley Design Associates, who recently issued a report to village officials.
“The potential future costs and liabilities would be multiple millions of dollars.”
The meeting, set for 1 p.m. at the Village Offices on Elm Street, will include village and Franklin County officials and representatives from the State Division of Code Enforcement and Administration and the offices of Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru).
Village Code Enforcement Officer Jim Haley shared interior photographs of 395 West Main St. with the Press-Republican that show a crack in the east-facing wall so deep and wide a grown man could fit inside.
A huge section of concrete and steel sub-basement floor has collapsed, and several columns supporting basement floor beams are missing.
The remaining floor beams are pulled out about 5 inches from their anchor joists in the stone wall, leaving about 2 inches of beam support intact.
The building has been condemned since Jan. 28, 2010, but recent inspections revved up concern about the structure’s stability.
ALL OPTIONS PRICEY
Macarthur inspected the site twice and told Haley the upper 45 feet of the 90-foot structure could easily shift sideways if it falls — it could turn and collapse into the street, sending debris into traffic on the Main Street bridge.
The east wall could then give way and tumble into the Salmon River, potentially crushing the village’s main sewer line, which runs nearby.
The rest of the falling debris could land on the building to the east, which houses For Arts Sake.
Macarthur gave the village a report with three options for the building, along with cost estimates:
▶ Stabilizing it could cost about $300,000 but only as a short-term solution because the site would continue to deteriorate with no ongoing maintenance, the report states.
▶ Repairing and selling it would cost at least $60,000 to $100,000 in engineering fees on top of an unknown amount to stabilize the structure and another $300,000 to $1 million for construction.
This option “is difficult to justify financially, as these costs could easily be 10 times the repaired value of the building,” the report states.
▶ Demolition would cost $100,000 to $250,000, plus another $50,000 for engineering, but it would eliminate the problem, the report states.
Macarthur recommends demolition and seeking assistance from regional stakeholders who would be impacted by the collapse, including the State Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.
He also recommends the Village Department of Public Works develop a contingency plan to respond to a possible collapse, such as traffic control and obtaining pumping equipment to use if the sewer line were to rupture.
Haley recently closed the sidewalk in front the structure to pedestrians and contacted officials for Thursday’s meeting.
“We’re looking for financial assistance because the village can’t do this alone,” he said.
The building to the immediate west is owned by John Mills and occupied by Stewart Rowley, who bought For Arts Sake and its custom-framing business and art gallery four years ago.
He has had to cancel art classes scheduled for March and cannot in good conscience hold exhibits or musical events because “the liability would be astronomical,” he said Tuesday.
“(The building next door) needs to be demolished and taken down as soon as possible,” Rowley said. “The engineers have no idea when it will come down — in three months or a year from now.
“They said this building is structurally sound, but there could be a lot of damage if the building next door comes down.”
Rowley has some tough decisions ahead as he waits for the political leaders to find answers.
“I’m open now, but do I close down and move things to a safer spot in the store or do I try to find a new place for the business?
“I’ve got a lot of square footage here, and the rent is reasonable, and it may be difficult to find a something similar in town.”
Rowley is keenly aware of the threat the old building poses for the community’s sewer line, saying 1.6 million gallons of raw sewage could be released into the river each day if it were damaged.
“I’m really afraid for the town because that’s likely to bankrupt us,” he said.
Email Denise A. Raymo: email@example.com