The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 10, 2013

Ashtabula to pay for demolition of burned school building

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — City officials are waiting on results of an asbestos test before moving forward with demolition and clean up of West Avenue School — something they believe they have to do because the owner can not afford it.

The cause of the Aug. 18 fire at the vacant school, at the corner of West Avenue and West 47th Street, remains under investigation. Firefighters believe the risk of injury outweighs the knowledge they would gain by going into the charred, unstable remains of the brick building, fire investigators have said.

Now it appears the city will have to foot the bill to demolish and clean up the site because the owner, Spencer Wold Jr. of Ashtabula, doesn’t have the money, City Solicitor Michael Franklin said.

No utilities were hooked up to the school as it had not served any use for many years. Wold may have used it for storage. He could not be reached for comment.

Franklin said a tax foreclosure is pending, but the title remains in Wold’s name.

“As far as we know, Mr. Wold does not currently have the funds to demolish the remains of the building properly,” he said. “As it was vacant, with no utilities connected, it was almost certainly uninsured. It appears that the city will have to find a way to demolish it in the interests of public safety, and see if it can recover some of the cost at a later date.”

Officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently took samples of the ground brick and the standing brick, testing for asbestos, City Manager Jim Timonere said.

“We are hoping to (do the job) for $80,000 to $100,000,” he said, noting if the site does contain a great deal of asbestos, the cost will be much higher.