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Toxins to determine cost of demolishing former Monsour Medical Center

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Westmoreland County will inspect the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette for asbestos and other hazardous substances to determine the cost of demolishing the condemned structure, according to the city attorney.

Scott Avolio said the Jeannette Health Board has given the county industrial development authority access to the building to take samples from the walls and ceilings. Demolition estimates range from $200,000 to $2 million, depending on the amount of asbestos and any other hazardous substances in the structure.

“I want to get (the right of access agreement) signed as soon as possible,” Avolio said.

The county will hire an environmental expert and will pay for the inspection, he said.

“It's great that the county is showing that kind of interest,” he said.

Avolio said Jeannette has the authority to grant access to the county since the city condemned the building and ordered it sealed.

Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority, said allowing the abandoned hospital to stand “is a real safety issue.”

Obtaining samples and viewing the interior is critical to calculating the demolition cost, he said.

“It's an opportunity to do some due diligence and to get cost estimates on what it would take to take the structure down,” Rigone said. “In order to take a step forward, we would need that information first.”

The state plans to widen Route 30 in the Lincoln Heights section of Hempfield and Jeannette where Monsour stands. A number of parcels on the township side of Route 30 already have been purchased but the Monsour site, which is located in the city, won't be attractive to a developer as long as the building remains standing, Rigone said.

After the road project is completed, the authority doesn't want motorists to see the deteriorating structure, Rigone said.

“That would only be a deterrent to invest in the city,” he added.

The city has been stymied in its attempt to get anyone who was associated with the hospital when it closed in 2006 to take responsibility for maintaining the building, which has mold, water, and wear from exposure to the elements. Extensive vandalism and at least three fires inside the structure have compounded the problem.

Some potential buyers and developers have contacted Avolio to inquire about the site, he said, but the undetermined cost of razing the former hospital has been an obstacle.

“No one contacted me that I would call credible — just a lot of sniffers,” he said.

City engineer Edward Antonnaci inspected the structure late last year and found some structural problems but said the building is not in danger of immediate collapse. He recommended a more extensive survey be done within six months.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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