County eyes demolition of asbestos-free County Home

By Chris Berendt Staff Writer

January 23, 2014

The county is poised to move forward with the demolition of the old County Home on Rowan Road, which was previously infested with asbestos and has not been in use for years.

While discussion among county officials this week has focused in large part on needed long-term maintenance and repair costs for 26 of its structures, costs are not solely limited to those structures that are still being used. The County Home is a prime example, with funds expended last year to rid the vacant structure of concealed asbestos, a necessary prerequisite to its demolition.

The asbestos did not pose a problem, but had to be removed to ultimately get rid of the dilapidated facility, which formerly housed the Cooperative Extension Service, the Department of Aging, Head Start and Public Works. If razed as it was, a safety hazard and tremendous liability would have resulted when the substance becomes airborne, county officials said.

The asbestos had to be specially-handled and disposed of by certified crews. Public Works director Lee Cannady said with that now completed, trying to get the best possible price tag on the rest of the process — demolition, transporting and disposal of the structure — is key.

“We are currently working on trying to get rid of this old County Home,” said Cannady. “The asbestos has been removed. I think our next step is probably to negotiate with our people at the landfill to try to see if we can do something about (lowering) our costs. After that, we would be ready to bid it out to a contractor. That is in the works.”

The issue of demolishing the 16,000-square-foot structure was discussed by the Sampson Board of Commissioners in early 2013. It had long been believed that asbestos contaminated the two-story brick building, but had only recently been confirmed at the time. Asbestos, exposure to which is known to cause serious illnesses including cancer, was discovered in the plaster ceilings and wall, pipe insulation in the crawlspace, vinyl floor coverings and the heating system.

It was a costly, if not unexpected, discovery.

Finance officer David Clack has noted that $230,000 was previously set aside to tear the building down and clean up the property. With an approximately $50,000 asbestos removal to go along with any demolition and subsequent disposal costs, the total expense has been estimated at $180,000.

Cannady predicted landfill tipping fees, the cost for using the Waste Industries landfill site, would be the steepest. To tear the building down and haul off the debris, it would likely cost another $50,000, with a remaining $70,000-$80,000 price tag on associated landfill fees, he noted.

“The biggest cost to all this would be landfill fees,” the Public Works director remarked. “There’s somewhere around 2,180 tons of debris that has to be put somewhere. If you do quick math at $30 (a ton), that’s about a $70,000 to 80,000 fee to get rid of the debris.”

At this week’s scheduled budget meeting, Cannady said he wanted to negotiate a price with Waste Industries representatives in an attempt to waive or reduce those landfill tipping fees. By negotiating the fee themselves, county official could avoid a possible mark-up on the tip fee that might come through a contractor. That way, a contractor who is awarded the bid would simply be bidding on a project that involved tearing down the structure and hauling those materials.

Every dollar saved would count, as it could go toward other county costs. Cannady did attest that such incidents, including asbestos removal and building demolition, are not the norm.

“I don’t think Sampson County is really going to get into tearing their own buildings down,” Cannady said. “This is not normally a routine thing.”

The Public Works director said he was unsure of the timeframe for getting the building demolished once someone is contracted to do the work, but said he wanted to move as quickly as possible.

“That is our most heavily-trafficked corner that everyone uses. You can tighten that timeframe pretty good if you have the right equipment to get in, get out and be done with it,” he commented. “If we can get that, that would be ideal. We don’t want that to linger on, because there is liability — both the contractor’s and ours — so the sooner we can get it out and be done with it, we’ll be better off.”

County manager Ed Causey said as much about the weight of the situation, and the hazard the building posed, last year, recommending the board proceed in the “least obtrusive manner possible.”

“You’ve got a liability there,” he told the board. “The quicker you can do it and get out, the better off we’ll be in whatever means you see for us to do it. We really need to do something about the building … it is a problem.”

Commissioners previously commented that it would be worth gauging public interest before moving forward with demolition. Commissioner Billy Lockamy said this week he knew of at least a couple interested parties. County staff would make contact with those parties directly, Clack said.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at