By CRAIG FREILICH
NORWOOD – Phase 1 of the cleanup of the charred remains of the old Norwood Elementary School is complete and planning for Phase 2 is about to begin.
And representatives of the owners of the building have finally stepped up “and are now cooperating with the village,” says Mayor Jim McFaddin.
Phase 1 involved removing the bulk of the debris, including asbestos, from the roughly 9,000 square feet of the building’s west wing, where the gymnasium and lockers had been.
Norwood got a break from the state Labor Department, which granted a waiver allowing Norwood to remove 75 percent of the debris, separated from the rest, under a less-stringent asbestos standard that would amount to a cut in costs. That has been shipped to the Development Authority of the North Country for safe disposal, according to McFaddin.
Casella Waste Systems won the bid to handle recyclable materials. The village is dealing with the remaining “hard fill” debris, sending it to a secure landfill.
Op-Tech Environmental Services out of Massena and Gymo Engineering of Watertown are consulting on the job, and are monitoring air quality around the site, particularly concerning asbestos.
“Once we finished Phase 1, Rep. Bill Owens’ staff told us to contact them to begin Phase 2,” which the staff would help plan, McFaddin said. That would deal with what’s still standing of the original structure, mainly the walls in the front, and general site improvement.
Once that’s completed, Phase 3 will be to see if the addition built in the 1980s can be rehabilitated and put back to use.
The school, originally Norwood Union High School when it opened in 1885, had long been decommissioned as a school when, in December 2007, Fire Chief Brian Haggett decided the unheated building was not safe for the tenants and it was ordered closed. The Norwood Fire Department had responded to two calls of gas leaks in the 26 Prospect St. building the week before.
The building burned in November 2009 in a fire that investigators described as "not accidental."
Since then the village has been struggling with the problem of cleaning up the asbestos-laced debris without getting any help from the owners, a company called IB Holdings LLC of Coral Gables, Fla.
But recently a representative of the company has come forward “and will meet their financial obligations,” McFaddin said. “We’ll bill them.”
So far that applies only to Phase 1. It remains to be seen what the costs of Phases 2 and 3 will be, so the owners have made no such commitment on those plans.