Like a recurring rash, costs involved with the demolition of the former Ace Tack building keep coming back to irritate the Cambridge city council.
The latest itch needed to be scratched involves the structural integrity of the common wall between the half-torn down building and the remaining building, currently occupied by Anytime Fitness. In addition, yet more asbestos has been discovered that must be safely removed. While not being urgent enough to have to close down Anytime Fitness, the issues were deemed enough of a public safety concern to call an emergency council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“I really wish we weren’t here talking about this tonight,” said city engineer Todd Blank in presenting the situation to the council.
Blank explained that H&T Trucking, who is the company contracted to perform the demolition of the building contacted him late last week expressing concerns over the structural integrity of the common wall. Blank said they were so concerned they hired a structural engineer to look at it. Blank said he contacted another engineer who had previously visited the site prior to demolition and everyone agreed that something needed to be done to help insure the wall doesn’t fall down under conditions like a strong south wind.
The plan that was agreed upon would be to utilize the existing three joists in the Anytime Fitness building. According to Blank, they will bolt steel channels with flanges to the outside of the wall at the joists. Threaded tie-rods would be inserted and attached to the joists, which will fix the stability issues.
Not long after that issue was addressed, H&T Trucking contacted Blank again and told him they also found additional asbestos, which would need to be safely removed before they could continue. The material was being pushed into the basement at the time of discovery, so the removal team will need to hand-remove all of the material currently in the basement.
The total cost of these two new projects would be $49,950, with the asbestos removal costing just over $19,000 and the wall fix costing just under $31,000. Blank said if the council approved the additional costs, work could resume as early as Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Council member Bob Shogren expressed his frustration over having to pay additional city money on this project.
“Isn’t this what you have in just about every building built around 1910?” Shogren asked. “Isn’t there asbestos in just about every commercial building along Main Street that may have been remodeled in the 40s and 50s? How can they not understand that there’s going to be asbestos, covered or not? I think this whole thing is a fiasco they could have foreseen and did appropriately. If they are experts in demolishing buildings, they’ve seen this kind of stuff before.”
Blank reminded Shogren that the city itself provided H&T with the original inspection for asbestos, so their original bid was based on that information. He also said that even the engineers agreed that the issue of the wall’s stability could not have been known until demolition began.
Council member Lisa Iverson asked if there was a chance for any further unforeseen costs.
“There’s always a chance until we are done with the project,” Blank said, but he thought this would be the last of any major cost increases.
Mayor Jim Godfrey asked what the chances were that the project would be completed in time to remove the fences for the Snowflake parade on Nov. 23. Blank said he wasn’t optimistic it would be possible. City public works director Todd Schwab added that it might be possible to move the fences so that up to a quarter of the sidewalk would be open, but if any portion of the front wall is still standing, the fences would have to remain in place.
“What happens if we don’t approve this?” asked Shogren.
“We are liable for any damages that might happen,” said city administrator Lynda Woulfe. “We cannot leave the wall in the existing condition. It must be repaired, and we have to abate the remaining asbestos.”
Woulfe also said that the state did wind up picking up half of the costs from the first change order that was needed for additional asbestos removal, so she would again ask the state to help offset some of these costs as well.
“I can’t guarantee that they will chip in any more money,” Woulfe said. “But I will do my best to get additional funding for this added cost.”
The council unanimously approved the change order, not to exceed $49,950.