By Jeff Fox

Workers have begun removing asbestos from the old Anderson School, says the Independence City Council member who has been pushing the owner to follow through on plans to demolish the building.

“Everybody’s really fed up with the lack of progress, but it looks like we’re getting somewere,” Council Member Eileen Weir said Tuesday. Her district, the 4th, encompasses southwest Independence, including the building at 35th and Evanston streets, in a quiet neighborhood just off U.S. 40 near Blue Ridge Cut-off.

The building, once a school in the Kansas City School District, has been unused for about 15 years. Gary Hassenflu bought it a few years ago, with plans for senior housing. Those plans have not materilized, though Weir said he applied for a state tax credit for senior housing last month. Tearing down the building could be a step in that direction.

For the last few years, neighbors have complained about weeds, rats and odors. Last year, there was a fire. The city has classified the building as dangerous and set deadlines for it to be torn down. Early this summer, for example, the owner told Weir he’d have it down in July, but then apparently his contractor skipped out on him.

Weir said she understands that and wants to work with him but also knows deadlines have come and gone. The latest city deadline to tear down the building is next Tuesday – which Weir points out clearly won’t happen and will set off another round of city fines – but says the work this week at least represents progress.

“It’s not our goal to keep fining him. ... It’s our goal to get the building down,” she said.

Weir said she’s been told there’s not a lot of asbestos in the building but that getting it removed it a necessary early step.

“It’s something. We’ll definitely count that as progress,” she said.

The city could tear the building down, but that could cost $130,000 to $150,000, and that would crowd out other city projects. Officials would prefer to see the owner follow through, Weir said.

“We’ve given him a little extra time to get things going,” she said.