Oneida Common Council: Repair or demolish

A codes violation hearing concluded with a recommendation by the Oneida Common Council that James L. Bent Jr., owner of the former Stanton Paperbox/Oneida Casket Company property, repair or demolish the structures Lt. Michael E. Whipple said Bent "cannibalized" over the course of the past year on North Warner Street.

Whipple, who serves as fire marshal and deputy chief of the Oneida Fire Department, and city engineer James Bacher testified at a hearing before members of the council at the end of its regular meeting July 1. Both men reported having experience being on the property and in the buildings prior to and after a fire Nov. 12, 2006. After the fire, the remaining structures were determined to be structurally sound.

Since then, the removal of support structures such as floor joists and roof support columns have been removed, presumably for sale, Whipple said. According to Whipple, a gaping hole appeared about three weeks ago, damage that hadn't been there during an inspection eight days prior.

Whipple said that hole appears to have been caused by a partial collapse. Bacher said in his opinion, anyone inside the building during a collapse would be seriously injured or killed.

After hearing the testimony, city attorney Michel DeBottis read a proposed resolution order the property's cleanup. Bent would be given 30 days to present a remediation plan to the fire marshal and begin work.

Councilman Donald Moore (D -- Ward 5) interrupted discussion of the vote to insist Bent be given a deadline by which the work would be completed. Another councilor suggested a 90-day limit be imposed. Bacher said he felt that would be unreasonable, given the delays tending to be associated with asbestos surveys.

The council unanimously voted to order Bent to repair the structural integrity of the building or demolish it and to remedy the other defective conditions on the property within six months, a more reasonable timeframe provided by Bacher.

Bent did not attend the hearing, and no one appeared on his behalf.

The council meets again July 15 at 7 p.m. in the second floor meeting room in the municipal building.

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