Costly collapse

DOVER — It didn’t take long for dozens of bricks to come crashing down to the sidewalk during a partial structural collapse to a building at 304 S. State Street in downtown Dover’s historic district on Oct. 20.

However, it is taking a little longer to get the building’s problems corrected and to reopen South State Street.

The street has been barricaded from south of The Green all the way to North Street since the collapse, causing daily headaches for motorists who commute through the area.

David Hood, a professional loss consultant with Goodman-Gable-Gould/Adjusters International, told city council members Tuesday night that work to take down all the bricks on the front o building should be completed by next Wednesday. He expects South State Street to reopen by Friday, Nov. 15.

At the end of the special meeting, Tuesday night council voted unanimously to accept staff recommendations regarding a violation of the dangerous building ordinance at the property that is owned by James P. Hylind.
Councilman Tim Slavin excluded himself from the vote due to a possible conflict of interest and Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. was absent.

City staff’s recommendations included:
• Declaring the building dangerous.
• Ordering the property repaired so that it is deemed safe by the building official by Nov. 15 by the owner or equity owner at their own risk.
• Ordering the building inspector to cause repairs of the structure so that it is deemed safe by the building official if not completed by the owner within 10 days of the date established by city council.
• Ordering City Manager Donna Mitchell, with the assistance of the city solicitor, to cause the cost of repairs to be charged against the land on which the building exists as a municipal lien or cause such cost to be added to the tax duplicate as an assessment, or to be levied as a special tax, or to be recovered in a suit at law against the owners.

City Planner Dave Hugg said the recommendations were made just in case there is any type of holdup regarding the reconstruction of the building.
“We’re here (Tuesday night) primarily because the (Dover) Code requires council to authorize city staff to take action to correct the situation should the owner or the owners not be responsive to the matter,” Mr. Hugg said.

“I should advise you that we have been in pretty much regular contact with the owner (Mr. Hylind) and the owner’s (insurance) agent since the evening of the event and they have been very cooperative in terms of trying to do the right thing and have pledged to get this building repaired.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen said he had heard concerns from business owners along State Street and that he, along with Mrs. Mitchell, would call Delaware Department of Transporation Secretary Jennifer Cohan this morning to try to get the barricade moved from its current location to the north side of The Green at the site of the historic Golden Fleece, which would open up parking spots and allow people to more easily visit the businesses.

Surprising collapse
The South State Street building sustained a partial collapse on Oct. 20 when, according to authorities, Dover Fire Department received a call at around 6:15 p.m. Officer in Charge Deputy Fire Chief Marshal Michael O’Connor arrived to find a sagging structure. He then called for Dover Fire Marshal Jason Osika to respond.

A resident was helped from the building and city spokeswoman Kay Sass said the fire department checked on the safety of gas and electric utilities.
Mr. Osika determined “a section of the front wall where multiple layers of bricks, which were used as a support wall had fallen, damage to an exterior overhang, and several cracks within the remaining wall causing the building to be condemned.”

City officials met with the structural engineer who was hired by Mr. Hylind. He said “that the front of the building is going to need to be removed while reinforcing the inside. In order to complete this work, scaffolding, a lift, supports and other equipment will need to be brought in and remain in place while the work is being completed.”

That is the work that is currently taking place at the site.
Mr. Osika said that the Benton Lynn Law and Young & McNelis law offices on either side appeared to be undamaged.

A brief standstill last week was what led to Tuesday’s special council meeting. Mr. Hylind has applied for grants through the state of Delaware to renovate the historic building, as well as the Downtown Dover Partnership. If they touched anything, they wouldn’t be eligible for the grants.
“On Monday morning they finished the engineer’s report and started moving forward,” Mr. Osika said. “They’ve removed the area (of bricks) above the first floor and we went down (Tuesday) at 4:30 (p.m.) and they had started the parapet wall. It looks like they are getting it down brick-by-brick and probably saving the bricks.

“Right now, it looks like the owner and the insurance broker are going to move forward in making these repairs.”

In touch with history
Councilman Fred Neil was pleased to hear that because he said it would be a shame to lose such a historic property.
“I have never felt sympathy for any of the dangerous building owners that we have had before us (in the past),” he said. “I feel sympathy for the owner of this building because the tragedy is that this is historic, this is part of the lifeblood of Dover and to lose this building would be tragic.”

Mr. Hood assured city council members that steps are being taken to preserve the building’s historic nature.
“Scott Sherman, who owns BRS Construction, a historic preservation construction company, put up the scaffolding,” he said. “They’re taking down the building. They’re preserving the outer bricks for the historic preservation of the building. Anything interior that is deteriorated that needs to go they’re putting in the dumpster and taking it away.

“After that is done and we are able to put a protective covering on the outside of the building to preserve it from weather a temporary wall will be built two feet into the building just to again preserve the building from weather so that when the outside starts to be reconstructed then it can go.”

Mr. Hood added, “The reconstruction part of the building is going to take a while for the insurance company to agree to the estimates. They have to write an estimate of what needs to be done, we have to write an estimate for the insurer as to what needs to be done. That’s our role. We take those estimates and we negotiate with the insurance company and we make sure that the insurer has enough funds to be able to rebuild the building the way that it should be, safe again within the historic preservation of the building.”

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