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Demolition of Aaron's building in Connellsville put on hold

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Plans to demolish the dilapidated Aaron's Building have been delayed until the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority receives additional funding through the state and access to adjacent properties in order to complete engineering work.

Michael Edwards, the authority's executive director, told board members Tuesday night that the demolition is on hold.

For Glenn Wolf of Widmer Engineering to design specifications for the demolition, Edwards explained that the authority needs access to one of the two adjacent properties.

Frank Corteal owns the property behind the Aaron's Building, located at the corner of Pittsburgh and Apple streets. Rich DiCenzo owns the property situated on the side of the building.

“If neither owner agrees to give our engineering firm access to the adjacent properties, we're going to have to come up with another plan,” Edwards said. “We will probably have to ask the city to close Apple Street to allow the engineer to have access to design the demolition specifications.”

Although the city and the authority recently received an additional $73,000 in funding earmarked for demolition through 2012 Community Development Block Grant funds, Edwards said he is not sure whether the city has enough money to complete the demolition process.

Edwards said the authority has been setting aside CDBG money for the Aaron's Building demolition since 2009.

Under federal guidelines, Edward said, only 30 percent of CDBG money allocated to the city each year can be earmarked for demolition purposes.

Authority chairman Tom Duncan suggested the city and authority petition the state to revise those guidelines because of the safety hazards created by the dangerous structure.

However, Edwards said he does not believe a change in the guidelines would be approved.

“The building is in really bad shape, and the city has been very lucky nothing has happened,” Edwards said. “We blocked off Apple Street earlier this week when we experienced high winds because we didn't know what was going to happen and we wanted to be prepared.”

Edwards said he has no idea how much it will cost to demolish the Aaron's Building.

“It cost us $89,000 to demolish the Troutman's Building more than 10 years ago,” Duncan said. “We know it's going to cost a lot more than that.”

In other business, the authority:

• Discussed plans to replace the railing and lighting in the East Park tunnel, which runs underneath Wills Road and connects the park and a parking lot.

• Agreed to pay New Haven Hose Co. $80,000 from CDBG funds for a fire truck payment.

• Announced that the Department of Community and Economic Development will send a grant manager to the city on June 25-26 for a monitoring visit to check on money spent for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 programs.

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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