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By Jay Mullen

The long process of cleaning the Flat Iron building property finally began Monday, Aug. 10 and should be finishing up soon. The debris will all be cleaned up and removed by Monday, Aug. 17, according to Mayor Phil Smith.

It will take a few days after that to haul everything out and level out the property.

All the debris from the property needs to be hauled out to the Rochester area before they can finish it off with concrete and gravel.

Smith said that air monitoring systems were installed around the perimeter of the property so they could determine if there were any contaminants in the air, their main concern being asbestos.

Mayor Phil Smith

Smith never thought there was any asbestos in the building, and according to the air monitors he was right.

“We had the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) do some sampling after the building collapsed and they found nothing,” he said.

Smith said that the state is the reason behind the air monitors, noting that they were told to treat the area as if it were a contaminated site.

With the process nearing its end, Smith said he feels good but he knows there will be more situations like this one in Whitehall’s future.

“This is an ongoing problem in the village. We have a lack of code enforcement, (Washington) county doesn’t step up to do what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

Smith said there are a number of buildings throughout the village that are in similar situations.

“I expect over time, given that the county is not living up to their code enforcement responsibilities, we are going to end up in a similar situation,” he said. “The village can’t afford to keep going out and owning properties and paying for cleanup that is the responsibility of someone else.”

Because of the lack of code enforcement from Washington County, Smith said he is looking to hire a code enforcement officer. Dan Stycznski was recently hired to be the village compliance officer.

But Smith said that the village has code issues that need to be addressed.

“We would have to hire our own person. That’s more expense for the village taxpayers because we are already paying county tax and they’re not getting their money’s worth out of it,” he said.

When asked if hiring a code enforcement officer would help the village get ahead of potential issues in the future, Smith exhaled before responding.

“Well, I already think we are behind the eight ball,” he said. “Trying to get ahead of it is a bit of an understatement.”

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