Demolition proceeding slowly … brick by brick

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó The dilapidated buildings at 127 and 129 Fifth St. are coming down.
But it’s a slow process and members of the Board of Aldermen said Tuesday they’re not happy with the speed at which the work is transpiring.
C.E. Spear, the board’s elder statesman who seldom raises a voice of discontent, said he was tired of the intersection of Fifth Street and Yadkin Avenue remaining closed because of danger of the buildings collapsing and harming motorists or pedestrians.
The streets have been blocked since early summer.
Spear said he was also dissatisfied by reports from town administrators that Larry Graves, owner of the buildings, is having the structures dismantled brick by brick and having the bricks cleaned for recycling one at a time at the site.
Dustin Wilson, the town’s land-use director, said Graves told him this week that it’ll be about 60 days before the buildings are dismantled and all the rubble carted away.
Board members discussed the matter Tuesday at their regular monthly meeting.
“Sitting there and cleaning bricks one at a time is not going to get it as far as I’m concerned,” Spear said.
Alderman Donnie Hinson said much the same, noting that when Graves previously addressed the board, he told members that he’d immediately haul the downed bricks to his property for cleaning.
“That’s what he stood there and told us he’d do,” Hinson said.
But board members took little action to prompt Graves to hurry his work. They voted unanimously (Alderman Scott Benfield was absent) only to continue to monitor the dismantling of the buildings and make sure work continued.
They took no action that would prompt Graves to hurry.
Mayor Jody Everhart said the streets may be reopened once the two-story buildings are leveled to a single story, but Wilson said he could make no promise that would happen, noting a structural engineer would have to decide such action.
Everhart said he was pleased that the bricks were being recycled, noting, “It’s better than crushing them up and hauling them to a landfill.”
“We will definitely be monitoring (the work) very carefully,” Wilson promised.
The meeting’s open comment segment followed the board’s vote.
During that open comment, Eric Singer, a Salisbury resident who said he travels through Spencer regularly, warned aldermen that the buildings are not being taken down in a safe fashion.
He said he observed a worker with a sledge hammer hitting the walls from the inside out. Singer said that with each blow, the exterior wall bowed 6 inches out, threatening to collapse on both a cherry picker on the street as well as power lines.
Singer asked if the company doing the work was bonded or experienced.
“I’m concerned about the safety,” Singer said. “It’s very dangerous from what I saw.”
Board members didn’t discuss the matter further after hearing from Singer.
In other matters handled Tuesday, board members:
– Voted to pledge $5,000 to the Spencer Business Association for reusable lights for the town’s Hometown Holidays celebration.
Aldermen said they’re excited about the upcoming celebration. “This is going to be something, hopefully, that’s going to catch on,” said Alderman Nick Bishop.
– Approved the use of Library Park on Nov. 2 for the annual Michael Yang Foundation fundraiser. Board members also voted to waive the reservation fee and deposit for the event while closing the 300 block of Rowan and Carolina avenues. They also voted to donate $250 to the foundation.
– Proclaimed the weekend of Oct. 17-19 as North Rowan High Alumni 50th Reunion Weekend. Board members said they’re expecting the event to bring 1,500 to 2,000 people to town.
– Approved a resolution establishing guidelines for funding of nonprofit organizations.