Damaged roof, rain are blamed
They said 405 Crane St. was going to fall, and Sunday, it imploded in the rainstorm.
"It didn't collapse," Borough Council President Brian Bartholomew said. Barholomew was the senior borough official on site. "The inside caved in on itself, but the [exterior] walls held most of the debris on the lot," he told The Press Sunday.
Bartholomew said he was watching the building and not a drop of rain came off the roof.
"Everything went right inside," he said.
According to Borough Engineer Dennis Harman, UGI was on the scene and purged the gas lines restoring service to the surrounding homes Sunday night. PPL reacted quickly as well, clearing wires from the house and checking the surrounding homes. Quick action by the utilities allowed the excavators to get in and start the clean up job on Sunday.
There is an inch-thick file in the borough on the Crane Street property. The borough engineer inspected the property late last year, found it unsafe and condemned the building in February. The borough has been working to get the property torn down for more than a year.
This year, Borough Manager Eugene Goldfeder applied for a county grant to get the building removed under a distressed properties category. The grant was approved, but funds on the grants are not released until late September. The building collapse removed the funds from the borough's account.
At the borough council's workshop session Monday, Harman noted the utility companies will revisit the neighborhood and verify all utilities are working and safe. A Pidcock engineer made a walk-through of the adjacent building early Monday morning and pronounced it to be serviceable. Another inspection will be made once the rubble is removed. The damaged building is part of a twin. The other half of the twin faces Church Street.
The building was unoccupied and there were no injuries in the collapse.
"The excavator did a great job of removing the debris in the small space," Bartholomew said at Monday's borough council workshop meeting.
Discussion about the building included the issue of how to handle the cost to the borough. Councilman Alfred Regits said when he talked to the excavators Monday morning, they said the debris would need to be sent to a hazardous waste site.
"That is going to be a costly amount for the borough," he said.
Borough Code Inspector Robert Miller noted he has been in contact with the building owner and they carry insurance on the building. In the past, the borough has not been able to get in touch with the owner, FTT Properties LLC of Livingston, N.J. Solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich noted the borough recently passed an ordinance requiring insurance proceeds be paid to the borough for cleanup before the owner can collect any funds.
"That cleanup could cost $50,000," Regits said. "I don't think he was carrying that much insurance. He probably only has liability coverage."
Dimmich promised to lien the property for the difference, but he also stated the obvious.
"There is going to be a gap between what we can get to pay for the cleanup and what we actually pay," he said.
Regits indicated the lot, when cleared of the debris, might only be worth $1,000.
"That's another property that we will own and don't want," he said.
Public Works Director Jeff MacHose indicated he anticipates the area will be cleaned up by the end of the week.
Curiosity seekers surrounded the site Monday morning crossing over the barriers placed by borough police. Dimmich suggested Mayor Schlegel issue an emergency disaster order. The order would give officials more power to get gawkers off the site and allow the cleanup to proceed in an orderly and safe manner.
An A.J. Butz Company subsidiary is managing the cleanup process.