TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
With the demolition of the Brandon Inn, the corner of Ninth Street and Princess Avenue will be available for redevelopment.
The demolition of the former Brandon Inn is taking longer than expected because the more asbestos and lead a contractor tried to remove before levelling the structure, the more hazardous materials they found.
So instead of spending $322,000 to remove the hazardous materials, seal it in bags and send them to the landfill for safe disposal, the bill will now be more than $860,000 — and that’s before demolition can even start on a building the city picked up by default on a tax sale.
That’s still the cheapest option because if the building were boarded up and left to rot, or if the roof collapsed and spread the asbestos around, or if the building caught fire and burned, the whole site could be contaminated, leaving behind a larger cleanup bill, said Steve Hayward, the manager of the city’s construction and design department.
"If the materials all got mixed together, there’s no telling where that material is, so the entire building would have to be bagged and hauled away," Hayward said. "If the roof fell in, we’d be faced with having to …literally bag the building and haul it away. At least this way, we have the option of taking the materials we know are there out and then leave the rest to knock it down and dispose of it."
Hayward said the improper demolition of Sacred Heart School in Brandon led to people in haz-mat suits vacuuming the grass to remove stray asbestos fibres.
Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview) said the request of the additional $538,000, approved at Monday’s city council meeting, represents a 166 per cent increase from the original estimate. He questioned whether there was a way to determine exactly how much work was required to clean up the environmental hazards before the work started.
"When we did the tender, it was very clear," Hayward said. "The materials were well-documented as it was seen in the building. The only thing that was added on was if there was anything hidden in the building, we’re still supposed to take it out. The risk was if anything was found, it would be an extra."
Hayward said as the firm removed the hazardous materials, false floors were found, where asbestos tile flooring lay underneath the visible floor. Lead ceiling materials were found hidden away for years behind other layers of decor. Asbestos wall finishes were also located, hidden in the walls.
"One glaring problem was on an entire floor of the hotel, there was a false floor built on top of an existing floor," Hayward said. "Any person walking into that room would have thought they were walking on the original floor, but they weren’t. Now we are faced with removing the asbestos flooring, which isn’t hard. The hard part is getting to the flooring. …We wouldn’t have known it was there unless we had started to deconstruct the building."
Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) asked whether the large cost of removing hazardous material could be recouped from the provincial government, as the cost to remove hazardous material from a building the city didn’t want is prohibitive, but city staff were not certain if there was.
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) noted that with former gas stations, the former owners were called on to deal with the environmental cleanup of their land.
"Is there some way when these titles are transferred that the previous owners are responsible to clean these sites up?" Chaboyer said. "If we have to keep cleaning these sites up, it could break us financially and people could walk away from expensive remediation and we are stuck paying the bills."
Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) said that while the cleanup of the Brandon Inn site is costly, the land could be worth $1.5 million to a developer and a development on that corner — Ninth Street and Princess Avenue — would be a real asset to downtown.
"It will cost us up front, and it will be painful, but when it’s done and fixed, we can help prevent future situations from getting to this point," Roberts said.
Coun. Jeff Harwood (University) said it was, "a nasty surprise" to find the extra hazardous waste, but the city remains responsible fort cleaning the site as the property owner.
"We’ll need to find the money somewhere and maybe we can go to the province to get some of the money, but we are doing the right thing," Harwood said.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said once the building is demolished, the city could sell the land quickly to a developer.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 17, 2012