CITED — The city of Oneida has given the owners of Hotel Oneida, located at the intersection of Upper Lenox Avenue and Main Street, until the beginning of August to address issues with the property. If the issues are not addressed, the city could make the necessary repairs and bill the owner. (Sentinel photo by Roger Seibert)

Hotel Oneida owners chosen for Fourth Ward project

Published Jul 17, 2017 at 4:00pm

ONEIDA — The City of Oneida has awarded contracts to several groups that will aid in cleaning up properties in its Fourth Ward.

These companies specialize in asbestos removal and also demolition. The city has bought out these homes, which were severely damaged by flooding in June 2013, after their owners agreed to sell them and have them demolished.

The city will receive money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy and destroy the homes. The Fourth Ward is located in a low-lying area near Sconodoa and Oneida creeks. The city will be reimbursed by FEMA for demolishing the properties, and turning the area into a green space, because these homes are located in a flood zone.

“We have probably 152 homes and commercial properties that will be demolished. We have 30 that are ready for demolition, and 22 of those have been found to have asbestos in them,” Mayor Leo N. Matzke said.

Firm hired

The city will pay Sullivan Contracting of Sauquoit to remove materials containing asbestos from these homes. This company also owns the Hotel Oneida, located at the intersection of Upper Lenox Avenue and Main Street.

It has a letter on the front door deeming the structure unsafe, and a number of signs warning against trespassing. Broken glass, overgrown bush and crumbling masonry are visible around the building.

Sullivan Contracting of Sauquoit has owned the hotel since 2010. It is among a group of property owners the city has targeted under public nuisance laws designed to renew the city’s image. Matzke said there are 100 such properties in the city.

These laws are based on ones in use in Rome and were adopted by Oneida earlier this year. The Common Council will address six dilapidated properties at its meeting Tuesday.

The city has given the owners of Hotel Oneida until the beginning of August to address the issue. If not, the city will make the necessary repairs and will bill the owner through a property tax increase that reflects the value of the repairs. Matzke said no conflict of interest exists, and a lawsuit could still happen if repairs are not made to the hotel.

“We chose Sullivan Contracting because they gave us the lowest bid, which is required by law,” Matzke said. “The two factors, the problems with the hotel and our hiring them, are not related. Sullivan Contracting has done outstanding work for us in the past.”

The asbestos, Matzke said, was found mostly in flooring tiles. “There may have been asbestos in other places, but that is, from what I understand, the primary location in homes of a certain age.”

Asbestos was a popular construction material that is noted for its strength and its resistance to fire, electricity and sound. Its convenience is mitigated by its risk. It is known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer in the tissue that covers internal organs. By 1978 certain types of its use were prohibited.

Asbestos is generally safe as long as it is not cut into or crushed. Workers trained in handling it will use wet saws when cutting it to prevent its dust from entering the air.

Matzke said the demolitions will begin by the end of this month. There are 18 more buildings in line to be inspected for asbestos and demolished by mid-fall. The city will use the same company to inspect and demolish those buildings.

“We plan to keep the process moving along,” Matzke said.