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Salem streets to reopen, building still a problem

SALEM — Sections of West State Street and North Ellsworth Avenue closed since the end of May for the EuroGyro project will reopen Monday.

The building, though, remains closed with the repair project unfinished.

“I’m happy that they’re going to reopen the streets, I’m not happy that they’re not done,” city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said Thursday.

Kenst learned about the road reopening Thursday afternoon from Salem Fire Chief Scott Mason, who spoke to both the engineer on the project and the contractor. For trucking companies and everybody else who travels State Street, Kenst was glad. But at this point, he doesn’t know when the road may close again. The project remains within the 18-month period for completing a project per the city zoning permit.

He didn’t know what limits for completion were set by the state building department, which approved the permanent repair plans for the building.

According to Mason, the contractor told him the work was stopping for now, with plans to take down all the fencing and reopen the streets. Mason said he was told the project was stalled because the contractor had questions for the owner. Mason attempted to call the owner Thursday to get an explanation, but had not received a call back.

“Work needs to resume as soon as possible,” Mason said.

The state had given the owner George Istocki 90 days to start the permanent repairs after the temporary work to stabilize the building was completed in December. The start of the permanent repair was delayed, though, partly because of COVID-19.

Mason said the contractor indicated to him that the project can be finished in another three to five weeks once the crew gets back on the job. When that will happen remains unknown.

West State Street had been closed from Howard Avenue to Ellsworth Avenue, with access remaining to Consumers National Bank, AutoZone and Speedway. North Ellsworth Avenue was closed from State Street to Second Street, with access remaining to Sugartree Alley. Truck traffic was being detoured via Dodge Drive and Pershing from the west and Southeast Boulevard and Pershing from the east.

The restaurant and building have been closed since Nov. 14 when fire department personnel noticed a separation between the south wall and an interior wall on the third floor after responding to an alarm report, raising a concern with the building’s stability. The next day, an engineering firm hired by the city inspected the building and recommended State Street be closed between Ellsworth and Howard.

Less than a month later, an engineering firm retained by the building insurer recommended the closing of Ellsworth Avenue between State and Second as a precaution due to the instability of the building. Work was done to temporarily stabilize the upper structure and roof, enabling the reopening of the streets, but the sidewalks and parking lots next to the building remained closed. The restaurant had just opened in spring 2019 after several years of work on the building by a previous owner.

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