MALONE — The sidewalk near 395 West Main St. has been closed for fear the building could collapse into the street or the Salmon River below.
That structure, next to For Arts Sake and the Main Street bridge, has been shifting several inches at a time, said Mayor Todd LePine.
He said engineer John MacArthur of Beardsley Design Associates inspected the site in November, and he found that the building “had been displaced 6 to 7 inches,” as its east wall continues to bow outward.
“We had a walk-through with the code officers (last Thursday), and it’s 8 to 9 inches now,” the mayor said. “That’s a 2-inch difference in displacement in two months.”
The building is owned by Aberle York Architectural Preservation Ltd. of London, England, according to Franklin County Real Property Tax Service records.
Code Officers Jim Haley and Charlie Robert declared the building unsafe and ordered that the bridge’s sidewalk on the north side of Main Street be closed to pedestrian traffic.
“We don’t know where it will fall,” LePine said. “The village has its 36-inch sewer main right under there on the river.”
He said debris could just as easily fall on Main Street onto vehicles passing over the bridge, but officials are not sure what can be done without some outside government help.
“This building is unsafe, but it’s just not in Malone,” LePoine said, pointing to an ongoing issue the Village of Chateaugay is having with a structure crumbling at the corner of Route 11 and Route 374.
“The leaders in the federal government have got to know that buildings in these villages are 150 years old,” he said. “Mortar lasts for 100 years, and after that, the (building materials) start going the other way.
“They decay and break down.”
The hands of municipal leaders are typically tied in government red tape when they want to remove a hazardous building because older structures may contain cancer-causing friable asbestos, which must be removed under strict environmental guidelines.
Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) recently reintroduced a bill to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive its restrictions in certain cases, when a building is either identified as dangerous or in imminent danger of falling down.
The measure never made it out of committee last year, but Owens resurrected the idea in January before the newly elected Congress.
Owens was instrumental in helping the Village of Malone in 2011 when the former Tavern Arms, or Nikki’s Place, on Main Street collapsed in on itself.
The EPA funded the cleanup after discovering asbestos was present in the debris.
The building at 395 West Main is asbestos-free because a previous owner gutted it and removed all contaminants, LePine said.
But it will be a special challenge to whomever removes the building.
There is no rear access point, besides the fact that it abuts an active business, For Arts Sake; it is in close proximity to the village’s major sewer line; and is adjacent to the Main Street bridge high above the river.
“It’s a logistical problem that has to be addressed,” the mayor said.
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