Waverly demolition temporarily on hold for asbestos test results

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: October 20, 2018 | 3:45 p.m.

WAVERLY – This week, Waverly Town Council member Miriam Edwards took time out from leading the project to demolish the collapsed building at 315 West Main to share the history leading up to the cave-in, and to explain why and how it had to be removed –  and why completion of the demolition is temporarily halted.

“It was initially damaged during the tornado on February 24, 2016, which left the building unsafe – and uninsured,” Edwards explained.  “Over the years it deteriorated due to the moisture of the building.  That’s how it stood until the bricks surrounding the building became detached, which caused a safety hazard for town and citizens.”

A constant stream of water from the cherry picker as part of the demolition helped to hold down the dust as well as allay possible asbestos concerns

The day that the letters were being written up to legally condemn the site, the roof and second floor were found to have collapsed to the street level, leaving only the exterior brick walls intact. Edwards said that inspectors were called in and found numerous issues – with two that were most concerning. 

“It appeared that the cornice on the front right of the second story had degraded to a point that it separated the bricks – and they had been falling into the public way,” she said. “A second finding was that the interior could be seen from the front display that showed water had penetrated from the roof and presented a very serious danger to the public.  The condition of the property presented a horrific accident waiting to happen. So that same day the town requested for VDOT to close between Bank and Mayfield Street for their safety.”

Edwards shared that the town reached out to several contractors, and the proposal of J & J Clearing and Demolishing out of Suffolk was accepted. One of the precautions they used was to go with a wet structural technique which required much skill and patience.  She added that asbestos inspections were done before and throughout the project to determine any possible concerns, and that the town is now awaiting written results before any decision can be made to determine when and how it will be safe to demolish down to the ground.”  

“We’d really like to thank Sussex County for support and guidance and Anne’s Dress Shop, Waverly Fitness Center, and Pino’s Pizza for their willingness to close their business during the demolition,” she added. 

One local, Barbara Wehr, described her feelings as she watched the old building coming down.  “On one hand, it was a relief that a building that looked like it was deteriorated beyond return was going down,” Wehr said.  “But when I was watching them take it down I was talking with someone who has been here all her life telling me stories about what it was like when it was a grocery store, so it kind of felt like a little piece of the heart was going away.  Then I found out that the city was acquiring it, and I felt up again with thoughts of what the town council may be able to do with it for the good of the town.” 

Leverette Pope in Pope’s Grocery Store, circa 1959.

When contacted about any plans that the Town Council may have for the future, Mayor McPhaul said that the immediate concern is to get back results from the asbestos testing and see what steps have to be taken for the safety of the town and citizens first.

“I am so proud of our team,” she added. “On Monday October 1, 2018 at 1:30 I got a call reporting the building had collapsed. By the end of the day we had contacted the owners, had both the Waverly and Sussex County Building inspectors out, we had one contractor talk to us about demolition and had VDOT close down Main Street and set up a detour for large trucks. On Tuesday we met with the owners of the property and had our Town Attorney draw up a contract to deed the Town the property, had four more contractors visit the site Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday we had 3 bids and the Council called an emergency meeting and selected a demolition contractor. Friday we secured signatures and necessary permits, and on Monday the 8th the building was being torn down.”

 “The Waverly Town Council is an amazing group of individuals who worked together to pull together a number of complicated moving parts,” McPhaul added. “Our biggest concern was public safety – quickly removing the dangerous part of the building so we could reopen Main Street. I hope this incident gives the Town of Waverly citizens the confidence that their elected officials can work together with a moment’s notice to tackle serious issues.”

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