RACINE — City staff have started taking official action to begin demolition of the boarded-up apartments and adjoining church across from City Hall.
At Monday’s Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, Purchasing Agent Kathryn Kasper requested and received approval to contract with Balestrieri Environmental & Development, an abatement contractor based in Elkhorn, to perform lead abatement at the 716 Sixth St. property.
Chief Building Inspector Ken Plaski, who filed a raze order on the property in May, said that the city may take legal action to recoup the city’s costs for handling the property.
Representatives of the property’s ownership group, R&N Investments and Holdings LLC, declined to comment on the record in July, but greatly disputed the city’s account of the buildings’ closure. They didn’t respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday.
The city did not pick the lowest bidder, S.A.F.E. Inc., which bid just $5,475 for the scope of work. Kasper explained why the city picked Balestieri’s $34,610 bid in a letter to the City Council.
“I consulted with both (Plaski) and Linda Fellenz of LF Green, the firm that performed the asbestos testing, and it is their professional opinion that the bid amount from Safe, Inc., did not include the entire scope of the specifications for the removal,” Kasper wrote.
Plaski clarified that he didn’t believe S.A.F.E. budgeted enough for the amount of asbestos inside the property.
“There was far too much material for that type of labor to take place, and also the dumping fees,” Plaski said. “It was way out of line with what other companies bid.”
Kasper said the quantity of asbestos in the building was abnormal.
“There was a tremendous amount of asbestos in the building,” Kasper said. “It was loose, actually. (That’s) not typical.”
Plaski added that the excess asbestos could have been potentially harmful to the apartment’s tenants. The city helped relocate the tenants in May.
The city is planning legal action as a result, Plaski said.
“There’s going to be charges attached to the real estate,” he said. “The city won’t actually own that parcel, but we’re going to file an action in circuit court to try to recoup our cost. The property will always remain with the owners, unless they choose to do something with it.”
Kasper added that the building will be razed after lead abatement takes place. Plaski said he’s unaware of any plans the city has for the property after the building is razed.
The full City Council still needs to approve the contract next week.