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December 05, 2016
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Get rid of eyesore for $68,500; Town seeks new bids

Town of Bethel officials have been trying for six months to find a contractor to remove this foundation for a reasonable price.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
July 16, 2014

SMALLWOOD, NY — Bethel supervisor Dan Sturm says the owner of a destroyed house on Taconic Trail in Smallwood has been “uncooperative” regarding taking care of the property in the wake of a fire; therefore the town has been taking steps to remedy the situation.

Last year the town spent about $3,000 to have trash and debris removed from the lot. In January of this year, the town moved to have the remaining foundation removed.

The town advertised for a contractor, and one offered to remove it for $6,800. The contractor began the work, but work was halted by the New York State Department of Labor (DOL), which said the work could not continue until certain “asbestos abatement measures” were undertaken.

Sturm and members of the building department said that because this is only a foundation, and they believe there is no asbestos connected to it, no asbestos abatement should be required. But bowing to the demands of DOL, the job was rebid, specifying that the abatement measures were required.

The town received no offers. Sturm said at a town meeting on July 9, “no one wants to touch it.”

But the town rebid the job reaching a wider area. They received one bid. It was for $68,500, or nearly 10 times as much as the original bid.

The town could have chosen to accept the high bid and to pay the large amount, which would then be tacked onto the property owner’s tax bill. If the property owner simply walked away from the property the county would then be forced to pay the tax bill and make the town whole.

But Sturm said he was not comfortable with such a high bid, and the town clerk Rita Sheehan offered to reach out to a wider geographical area in an attempt to find a more reasonable bid.

Councilmember Bernie Cohen said, “First of all, the property isn’t worth $68,000.” He said the owner would probably walk away from the property if that high bid were tacked onto the tax bill.

Councilmember Vicky Simpson said, “We can get made whole, but we also live in the County of Sullivan, which then has to foot this bill, and so regardless it’s going to come out of our taxes. So I would definitely say, please get some more bids for this.”

Brian Keegan, a spokesman for DOL sent an email saying the department inspected the building based on a complaint regarding asbestos. He wrote, “Because there was no survey conducted of the property ruling out the presence of asbestos, the owner—as required by law—must now hire a licensed asbestos contractor to remove remaining debris, taking precautions to protect the public as outlined in the law.”

Ticket revenue for town?