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Cost more than doubles for demolition of South Hadley-owned FiberMark building

The discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos during a June assessment by Forbes & Wheeler Inc., a Holyoke industrial hygiene firm, has driven up the cost of complying with federal and state regulations that require hazardous materials to be removed before a structure is torn down. The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of PCBs in 1979 because the chemicals, used in lighting fixtures and heavy-duty electrical equipment, were considered to cause cancer in humans.

The demolition of the FiberMark building, at 1 Canal St., is part of the town’s efforts to redevelop the South Hadley Falls area. In spite of the escalated costs for the project, town officials believe it is an important step for the advancement of the Falls.

Jeffrey Labrecque, chairman of the South Hadley Community and Economic Development Commission, said that once the building is removed, it will be easier for the town to get a developer to rebuild on the property.

“The hope would be that the town and its taxpayers would see that paying for the demolition serves a greater purpose than not doing anything at all,” Labrecque said.

He noted that with the building empty, the space is generating no tax revenue for the town.

“You have to spend money to make money,” said Labrecque, who is also the chief operating officer of the Village Commons.

The town purchased the FiberMark building from Northeast Utilities in 2010. Initially, the intent was to renovate it, but because the structure was deteriorating, the town decided that it would be more economically feasible to raze the building and build a new structure on the lot, said Town Administrator Michael Sullivan.

Before Forbes & Wheeler discovered several toxins in the building, the projected total cost to take down the building was between $75,000 and $90,000, Sullivan said.

Across the street from the FiberMark building is the site where the new public library is being constructed at 2 Canal St. Library Director Joseph Rodio said the removal of the FiberMark building is an important part of redeveloping the corner where Main Street and Canal Street intersect.

“I think that corner can really be a dynamic attraction in South Hadley,” Rodio said.

Sullivan said the property where the FiberMark building sits is residentially zoned, and that when the lot is clear the town will be looking for a development proposal to build homes on the space.

He said the building will probably be torn down in late fall or early winter, depending on how long it takes for the hazardous materials to be removed. The town will be accepting proposals from companies bidding on the removal through July 25. Once a contract is awarded, the company chosen will begin the removal work, which Sullivan said he expects to last around four or five weeks.

While he hopes the process of tearing down the building can be a “deconstruction,” meaning the bricks from the structure will be reused, Sullivan said he expects it to be a “demolition,” meaning the building will be torn down without the intent of recycling materials.

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