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Demolition contracts on 57 structures awarded

Fifty-seven vacant properties in Buffalo will be demolished under four contracts awarded Thursday by the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

The agency board voted 8-0 to spend $1.08 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds during a meeting in City Hall.

The structures to be demolished were chosen by the city's Office of Strategic Planning, which prioritized sites around places like schools, community centers and places of worship, Permits and Inspections Commissioner James Comerford Jr. said.

The demolition work was put out to bid in four parts, and the work was awarded to the lowest bidder for each package of work.

Here's how the contracts break down:

*Empire Dismantlement of Grand Island, a $238,000 contract for 13 buildings and a $281,900 contract for 15 structures.

*Regional Environmental Demolition of Niagara Falls, a $270,675 contract for 15 structures.

*Niagara Environmental & Wrecking of Buffalo, a $292,200 contract for 14 buildings.

Overall, seven firms bid for at least portions of the work.

Under these contracts, the average cost of each demolition is about $19,000, Council President Richard A. Fontana noted. A few years ago, the average cost per demolition was $14,000 to $15,000, Comerford said.

Officials repeated their long-stated concerns over state-imposed fees for asbestos surveying required before demolition. The costs are at least $2,000 per property, a cost which takes away from the number of structures the city could be demolishing, officials said.

The state has doubled the fee since 2009, when it was $1,000. At that time, Comerford called the fee a "joke" and "a legal way to shake down the city."

In September, the agency approved plans to spend nearly $2 million in federal grant money to demolish 108 structures.

Mayor Byron W. Brown, who serves as chairman of the agency, said at least 4,500 vacant properties in the city have been demolished since 2006.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com