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Walsenburg finds it’s expensive to tear down fire damaged homes

WALSENBURG — For a number of months city council members have asked for updates regarding the elimination of nuisance structures in the city that have been damaged by fires and condemned. City Attorney Dan Hyatt has briefed elected officials a number of times in the past few months on this issue, explaining it is expensive, it must be accomplished to legal standards in the area of asbestos identification, and where necessary, removal, and the fact that condemnation and notification will not result in the city immediately acquiring properties after the structures are demolished. Recently, Rick Dunn, the Walsenburg Building Inspector, received a letter from Advantage Environmental/Safety Resources Inc., of Pueblo, outlining potential costs for asbestos inspections for four properties in the city. Those properties are located at 718 W. 7th St.; a Tyler Street property, 303 Pennsylvania, 102 Indiana, and property at the corner of Colorado and Jackson. Walsenburg Administrator David Johnston told council members in

an email dated September 3, 2014, “The total inspection costs for the five properties totals to $10,380.00, which would be chargeable to the General Fund. In the event asbestos was found to be present in any of the structures, abatement would come at an additional, and, as of yet, undetermined cost. After abatement, where necessary, the actual demolition could proceed.” Donna L. Elsom, Senior Project Consultant for Advantage, said in an email to Dunn regarding the cost proposal letter, “Two of the buildings we looked at had secondary structures on the property that did not appear to be fire-damaged. The property on 7th St had a storage building in the back and the property on Indiana had a separate apartment. Neither of these structures were included in the proposal.” The city administration and elected officials find themselves, once again, at the mercy of the shrunken General Fund, as Johnston explained in his September 3 email, “The City finds itself in an extremely uncomfortable situation with regard to these buildings. On the one hand, the owners have been instructed to repair the buildings or incur demolition by the City. On the other hand, there is no money in the budget for asbestos inspection, asbestos abatement or demolition. If the City does nothing, it delivers another chapter in the ongoing novel that it threatens but never follows through.” Johnston said to the council members in the email last week, discussions regarding the city audit on September 2 showed, “there is no reserve of General Fund money against which to draw.” Johnston also reminded the council members in his email, that unlike times past, there are legal regulations with this type of work that must be followed to avoid serious consequences. “If the city chooses to proceed with demolition without first obtaining an asbestos inspection, both the city and Mr. Dunn, personally, could incur some hefty fines and penalties,” he wrote. This issue is one of the items expected to be on the Walsenburg City Council’s Finance Committee agenda for September 15.