Removal of Belvedere Hotel fire rubble halted due to higher, unexplained costs |
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Mary Ann Thomas

Officials won’t say exactly what the problem is, but they are seeking bids for the demolition of the Belvedere Hotel in Oklahoma Borough after halting the project this week just a day before the removal of the charred remains was scheduled to begin.

After a July 24 fire decimated the 115-year-old hotel, once affectionately known as the Tin Hut, Oklahoma Borough declared the site needed an emergency cleanup because of its proximity to Route 66 and the presence of asbestos. Westmoreland County came up with $75,000 for the demolition and cleanup while Oklahoma pledged $10,000. They were set to go with McCutcheon Enterprises of Allegheny Township.

But on Tuesday, PennDOT announced the project was postponed and as is the closure of Orr Avenue at the staging area for a good part of the month of September.

A Westmoreland County press release cited a “considerable and unforeseen increase in the initial project cost” as the reason for the delay.

“We are extremely disappointed that we are being forced to delay the project,” said Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Department of Planning and Development in the statement. “However, circumstances beyond our control require a revised approach. It is our intent to remove the building remnants as quickly as possible.”

In interview with the Tribune-Review, Rigone declined to explain the circumstances he says are out of their control.

Lee Schumaker, code enforcement officer for Oklahoma Borough and the demolition project coordinator, said, “It’s simply that some expenses were higher than anyone expected.” Schumaker deferred further comment to the county, which is administering the project.

McCutcheon Enterprises of Allegheny Township was picked initially at the contractor because of its extensive experience in hazardous cleanups.

“I cannot comment on what caused the ‘unexpected cost increases,’ but we are going to re-bid the job,” said Nathan McCutcheon, vice president of McCutcheon.

Rigone said the county wants to move on the project as soon as possible, with sought the bids on Friday. When the county’s Redevelopment Board meets on Sept. 24, they can review the bids with the possibility of making an award, he added.

State Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Washington Township, said he hoped that the county can complete the bid process by the end of September to move swiftly on the project.

In the meantime, he is still looking for additional emergency funding for the project.

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