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Help Devise A New Plan

No reasonable person wants an asbestos abatement project handled in a slipshod manner. But officials in the village of Belmont and with the county Land Reutilization Corp. had no intention of doing that.

They thought they had an effective, affordable plan to handle asbestos in the process of tearing down an old school building in Belmont. Initially, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials raised no objection to the proposal. Then, after obtaining an opinion on it from the U.S. EPA, they rejected the plan.

At issue is a school building constructed in 1915 and now owned by the village. It has deteriorated to the point that demolition seems the only option.

Like many structures from that era, the building is packed with asbestos-containing materials, however. There are both state and federal regulations on how asbestos must be handled in demolition projects.

After receiving a bid for $199,000 for asbestos removal, village officials sought help. It came from the LRC, often referred to as the Land Bank.

A second evaluation of the project netted an estimate of $89,000 for asbestos abatement. LRC officials had hoped to aid the village by covering that bill.

But this week, LRC Chairwoman Kathy Kelich reported to her board that the less expensive plan was deemed unacceptable by the U.S. EPA and thus, by the state agency.

“I’m just dumbfounded by this,” Kelich told her board.

So are Belmont officials, though Mayor Stan Sobel vows the old school will be demolished.

Surely there is a middle ground somewhere between $89,000 and $199,000. One hundred ten thousand dollars is a lot of money for small, local entities such as Belmont and the BRC.

The ball on this one ought to be in the court of state and federal EPA officials. Recognizing that a much higher price tag for the school project may prevent the village and the BRC from undertaking other important initiatives — perhaps related to health and safety — the agencies should use their expertise and contacts to help devise a new, affordable plan for the school.

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