Commissioners drop plan to raze old JFS building

LISBON – Plans to demolish the vacant building that once housed the county welfare office have been canceled after Columbiana County commissioners learned it would cost twice as much as originally expected.

“The estimate we’ve gotten for the whole thing is in the vicinity of $250,000 … We’d had hopes it would be somewhere around $100,000 to $125,000,” said county Commissioner Jim Hoppel.

Commissioners voted in late November to seek formal bids to demolish the county annex No. 1 building on Nelson Avenue that housed the county Department of Job and Family Services until the JFS relocated to the new county government services building last May. The JFS had been in the annex building since the late 1970s.

At the same time, commissioners hired Environmental Protection Systems of Girard for $4,320 to examine the building and determine how much it could cost to safely remove and dispose of asbestos, a popular fire-retardant material commonly used during this period in the construction of buildings, including schools. Asbestos has since been found to cause lung cancer and is no longer used.

Hoppel said they recently learned asbestos removal and disposal alone would cost $60,000 to $80,000.

Meanwhile, commissioners had asked county Engineer Bert Dawson to have his staff take a look at what it would cost to demolish the building, including the asbestos removal and disposal figure. This resulted in the $250,000 estimate, which Hoppel said is much higher than commissioners are willing to pay.

The bids were to be opened on Jan. 30, but Hoppel said they have contacted bidders to advise them of their decision to cancel the process. The decision was reached outside of a meeting following informal discussions among commissioners.

“We’re just going to try and sell it outright to see if anyone is interested,” Hoppel said, adding they are also working with a local contractor to determine if they can come up with a cheaper plan to demolish the building.

Hoppel said they are only out whatever it costs to run newspaper advertisements seeking bids.

“I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t cost a lot,” he said, adding that the asbestos study had to be performed anyway, the result of which will come in handy if they decide again to demolish the building.