Council deems building a public health threat
The Oneida Common Council voted unanimously Dec. 18 to order the former Oneida High School razed by Sept. 30. Common councilors made the decision after hearing more than a half-hour of testimony by Oneida Fire Department Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Michael E. Whipple and considering the input of city engineer James Bacher.
City attorney Justin Murphy questioned Whipple on the condition of the structure and its potential impact on the community at a hearing held after the council's regular meeting.
"Mr. Baker did a lot of work in there, then the neighbors complained that he was taking asbestos out of there," Whipple said.
According to Whipple, Baker reported he was working with an asbestos company, which found two types of asbestos in the building. Whipple said Baker and his family were plagued with health problems that prevented his doing anything further to secure or improve the structure.
While attending to those personal issues, Whipple said, Baker reported his tools were stolen from the building. The only belongings of Baker's which remain in the building, Whipple said, are an asbestos filtering system valued at $5,000 and a mower.
Whipple testified that he had inspected the building on several occasions and issued citations for violations of the city's codes ordinances in July.
The fire department maintains a lock box on the building, which provides them access in the event of an emergency, but other people are getting in other ways, he said.
"Some windows are boarded up, but the door on the north side of the building facing Grove Street someone took the window out of the door, and they are using it as a step to climb into the window above it," Whipple said.
Whipple said he took photos July 28 and Aug. 11, which he presented to Murphy and the council. He said nothing on the property has changed since those photos were taken, except that the city's Department of Public Works erected a six-foot metal fence around the perimeter of the building.