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Tarentum officials target leaning building

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Surrounded by dirt and barricades for safety, the former Laudromat, known as the Leaning Tower of Tarentum, awaits demolition by Ron Gillette, Inc. next week. Photographed on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Tarentum Borough officials have started citing the owner of the leaning building on East Fourth Avenue on Wednesday.

The building, in the 200 block of East Fourth across the street from the Valley News Dispatch, has been owned by Ron Gillette Inc., a Harrison demolition company, since 2012.

Borough officials determined on March 10 that the two-story brick building, which has had a noticeable lean for years, was shifting and in danger of imminent collapse.

They expect the building to be torn down within a week. The 200 block of Fourth Avenue was closed to traffic and an earthen barrier was constructed around the building to help deal with falling debris. But, the discovery of material containing asbestos in the building created a delay while Gillette searched for a contractor to remove the asbestos. That delay stretched into eight weeks.

“Due to the delays, we had to leave this job,” John Gillette, president of Ron Gillette Inc., told the Valley News Dispatch. “We're finishing another job, and our intention is to get that building down as soon as possible.”

In an email to the Valley News Dispatch on Wednesday, Tarentum Borough Manager Bill Rossey said, “Gillette's have been cited and will be cited every day until this is done. We have made numerous calls to them and letters have been sent. I am not happy with this situation, either.

“The asbestos has been removed and all the necessary permitting has been issued for them to start,” Rossey said. “There is nothing on our end holding them up.”

The fines associated with the citations the borough is issuing could be as high as $600 per day.

Believed to have been damaged in the St. Patrick's Day flood of 1936, the building has tilted for decades.

Despite that, it was occupied most of the time until the lean became noticeably more severe and authorities declared it to be a dangerous structure in 2009. It has been unoccupied since then.

VND Managing Editor Jeff Domenick contributed to this report. Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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