Structural engineer gives warning about Spencer’s dilapidated building

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó A letter from a structural engineer concerning a dilapidated building in town was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Spencer Board of Aldermen.
The letter from Andrew Eller, an engineer with Salisbury’s Structural Engineering & Design, addressed problems with a building at 129 Fifth St. at the intersection of Yadkin Avenue.
The letter, dated June 30, also prompted the town to close two blocks to both pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic. Board members unanimously approved that closing Tuesday night.
They agreed with Eller that the building is a hazard and in danger of collapse.
“According to (Eller), a good strong wind can do the job,” said Alderman Nick Bishop.
Fellow aldermen laughed, but they agreed the matter was serious.
“This is an eyesore and a public danger downtown,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Morris.
The letter from Eller was frightening. In part, it read:
“An extensive site investigation or structural analysis is not needed to determine that this building is susceptible to imminent collapse,” Eller wrote. ” … it’s likely that any of the brick walls could topple, causing catastrophic failure. Such a failure would certainly have dangerous consequences beyond the footprint of the building. The entire structure should be demolished as soon as possible by a qualified demolition contractor. Steps must be taken in the interim to establish a buffer zone beyond the building footprint and around the entire perimeter to prevent entrance by persons or vehicles.”
Aldermen have discussed the matter at previous meetings. Land Management Director Dustin Wilson and Town Manager Larry Smith said they have tried unsuccessfully to have the building’s owners take action.
The building is owned by Rowan County residents Genoal and Dylan Russell, though Linwood’s Larry Graves signed a contract about 10 years ago to purchase the property. Graves admitted recently that he was responsible for the building’s upkeep.
Aldermen appropriated $56,000 in this year’s budget to have the building demolished. They said they have no idea if that amount will be enough since the demolition is expected to be fairly tedious.
The building must be taken down in a fashion that assures accompanying buildings are not affected.
Aldermen have also said they want to make the building’s owners reimburse the town for the cost of the demolition.
Town leaders said Tuesday they don’t know how long it’ll be before the building is demolished. Bishop guessed, “Probably at least a month, and maybe two or three.”
Mayor Jody Everhart responded when someone asked when Fifth Street and Yadkin Avenue would be reopened. “When it gets in a safe way one way or another,” he said.