After numerous fires and ignored orders to tear down a long-abandoned foundry, the city of Independence decided it will arrange for the job to be done – and then try to recoup those costs from the owner in court.
The city will have the former Independence Stove and Furnace Foundry at 1010 W. Hayward Ave., which sits across the railroad tracks from the Community of Christ Temple parking lot and the Amtrak depot, torn down next year. The building, constructed shortly after the turn of the 20th century and in operation until the mid-1980s, according to the city, was abandoned in 1992 and has become full of trash and refuse.
In 1997 the city deemed the building dangerous due to numerous fires and police calls at the property. In the past five years alone the city has recorded 16 fires within the former foundry. Much of the structure’s roof has collapsed over the years.
The city council voted unanimously Monday for a purchase order to Junior's Construction for $82,000 to demolish the building. The building next door on Hayward houses Gaylord Foundry Equipment, which is in operation.
“It appears this can's been kicked down (the road) several times,” Council Member John Perkins said, “and we're finally dealing with this and getting this property removed. It puts our fire staff at risk, and it wastes time for staff to review the property and come up same conclusions they did in 1997.”
According to city information, a study by Norton & Schmidt in 1999 determined the building had severe structural problems, and the firm submitted a demolition bid for $175,000, but the city did not award a contract. By the next decade, the Jackson County Land Trust had acquired the property, but it lacked funding to secure the structure and sought a no-cost transfer to someone with means to maintain or demolish it. In 2000 and again 2006, a demolition bid did not net a contract.
The current owner, H&H Construction, took possession a few years later. In 2011 and again this year in February the city ordered the owner to repair or demolish – with no results. The city obtained demolition bids again in 2011 but did not proceed due to cost.
After a fire in October, city staff decided to demolish, and a notice of pending demolition was posted on Oct. 27. Since then, the foundry has experienced yet another fire.
“It's time we don't kick the can,” Council Member Curt Dougherty said, noting previous councils and mayors never took action. “I'm so glad to see it go. We get so many calls.”
Junior's Construction, which has done demolition work for the city before, submitted the lowest of four bids, according to city documents. The highest bid was $264,740.
The Stove and Furnace Foundry will mark the 14th structure this year the city has demolished or targeted for demolition, at a total cost of $224,000 City Manager Zach Walker said. The foundry demolition will deplete the general fund money targeted for such projects, but the city still has more than $175,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds allocated for demolitions. Walker said the city has enough buildings targeted that those funds likely will be used by the end of the budget year next June.
City attorney Dayla Bishop Schwartz said city code allows the city to sue for demolition costs with a dangerous building, but rarely is it cost-effective, as negligent owners many times don't have any money to pay in court.
The foundry's large demolition cost could make a lawsuit more worthwhile, she said. Such a legal move would come after demolition.
“We may not be able to collect or collect the full amount, but it seems in this particular case is worth the effort,” she said.
“I agree,” Perkins said. “I think it's our due diligence to try and recoup as much taxpayer money as possible from these landlords who allow these properties to go as they do.”
Mayor Eileen Weir noted much of city's blight removal has come on the western side – not surprising, given the older and more dense construction, she said – but finding some positive replacement in the space. Working to increase voluntary compliance also would help.
“The challenge as a council will be how to fund this program adequately,” she said, “and demolition is only have the solution.”