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Town Hall set to reopen after surprise asbestos scare

Marilla Town Hall reopens for business Monday after being shut down for 10 days when traces of asbestos turned up during a renovation project.

Work on the Two Rod Road building came to a halt on June 17, on orders of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Two weeks previously, OSHA staffers had investigated the Town Hall project, which involves moving court facilities to the basement and the building and assessor offices upstairs.

"We had little if any notice for the shutdown," town Supervisor George Gertz said. "They [OSHA] let us work there for two weeks and then, all of a sudden, we were shut down."

"We were told a survey resulted in minor traces [of asbestos] in glues in ceramic tile and some floor tile -- about 1.1 percent," he said. "You can't have 1 percent."

"We had no airborne asbestos but they are taking precautions. They haven't found anything substantial," he added.

The delay led to a royal headache, according to town officials.

"Anything that airborne dust could infiltrate had to be thrown out -- chairs, any paperwork laying around, ceiling tile, carpeting, etc.

"We went into disaster mode," the supervisor said. "Town employees had to box up their paperwork, chairs, wall pictures, bulletin boards and decorations and leave the building. Leather chairs were OK. Carpeting was ripped out by OSHA workers."

Building Solutions of Elma was hired to do the reconstruction project. Gertz said the work was approved by the Town Board at a special meeting earlier in the month, and the permit was issued by the town building inspector.

The last asbestos-abatement work done on Town Hall in 2002 involved plumbing. Then, the municipal building was shut down for a few days.

Meanwhile, there is a cost to pay -- estimated at $17,000. The unexpected bill for the abatement work will either be absorbed by the town or its insurance carrier.