Insurance, fire investigation holding up Rensselaer Falls building cleanup | st. Lawrence County

RENSSELAER FALLS — Progress is being made on the cleanup of the building destroyed by fire at the corner of Main and Rensselaer streets.

Code Enforcement Officer Timothy C. Tuttle said the owner, Kevin Reynolds, is working through complicated issues with insurance, fire investigations and environmental concerns.

The 209 Rensselaer St. building, which housed 11 people when it burned on Feb. 26, has been leveled but the remains can’t be removed until asbestos testing has been completed, Mr. Tuttle said.

Mr. Tuttle said the building was pushed in under an emergency status that allowed the work to be done before asbestos testing had been conducted. The danger of a wall collapsing and injuring a passerby or environmental property outweighed the concern, he said.

According to Mr. Tuttle, insurance has been delayed because of the ongoing fire investigation and Mr. Reynolds is hoping the insurance money will help pay for the asbestos testing, which can be expensive.

In March, following a special meeting of the village board of trustees, Mr. Tuttle was given the go-ahead to issue a notice of violation and a notice of condemnation.

Mr. Reynolds had 30 days to show some progress and has a total of 12 months to clean the property up, according to Mr. Tuttle.

By working with the insurance company and discussing plans with Mr. Tuttle, Mr. Reynolds is showing progress.

Mr. Tuttle said Mr. Reynolds, who has owned the property for more than 25 years, plans to rebuild on the property but has not determined what he will build.

During a board meeting Monday, Rensselaer Falls Mayor Michael S. Hammond said the destruction of the building has put a bit of a pinch on the village.

There were six units in the building all on the village sewer system, he said.

The bricks from the collapsed walls have some value, Mr. Tuttle said, and Mr. Reynolds is keen to sell them. But he can’t until the asbestos testing has been completed. While the bricks themselves should be fine, it is the mortar attached to the bricks that might possibly contain asbestos.

People should not take bricks off the private property, Mr. Tuttle said.

This is not the first time fire has altered the look of the little village on the Oswegatchie River. According to historians Robert Poor and Susan Huntley, the village suffered a series of fires over 55 years.

On Aug. 24, 1894, a random spark from a blacksmith’s anvil kindled a blaze that destroyed 14 buildings and required the Ogdensburg Fire Department to use a special train to bring its equipment to the site.

On Oct. 2, 1902, the Phoenix Bent Works built by MW Spaulding burned down.

On Feb. 2, 1903, the historians report, the Union Free School Building, which was built in 1883 out of wood, was destroyed in less than an hour. Students were forced to jump from the second story of the building in order to escape the fire.

On May 20, 1903, a fire at the Commercial House barn required Ogdensburg to again load up a special train. According to reports, the Ogdensburg firefighters made the 13-mile journey in exactly 16 minutes.

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