Old middle/high school demolition 8-13-2020

After a seven-week break, work resumed this week on the old middle/high school on North Mulberry Street. Crews are separating the wood from the bricks and block. The bricks will go to a brick reclaiming company. Once this pile of rubble is sorted and removed, another section will be demolished and the process repeated.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is in response to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can submit questions to the staff.

MOUNT VERNON — When a reader asked through Open Source about the stoppage of demolition on the old high/middle school on North Mulberry Street, he wasn't the only one wondering what is going on. Councilmember Tammy Woods asked the same question during Monday night's city council meeting.

After years of uncertainty, promises, and unrealized plans, demolition finally began on June 19, only to come to a halt a few days later. After a seven-week hiatus, activity resumed this week.

When Safety-service Director Richard Dzik asked developer Joel Mazza early this week the reason for the delay, Mazza cited two reasons: vacation and illness.

The initial stoppage was due to the contractor, Jeff Page of Lucas-based Page Excavating, being on vacation a couple of weeks. Mazza has been on vacation the last couple of weeks, and the contractor has had employees out sick.

“I have not seen any more of the building come down, but there has been activity,” Dzik told Knox Pages on Thursday. “They continue to deal with the debris.”

When initially contacted, Page declined to comment other than to say crews were working at the school this week. In a series of text messages, however, he explained that his crew is separating the wood from the brick and block on the part of the building already demolished. When the current pile of rubble is sorted and removed, another section will be demolished, and the process resumed.

According to the demolition permit signed on Dec. 5, 2019, the proposed start date for demolition was Dec. 15, 2019, with a completion date of Mar. 31, 2020. Dzik said the contractor is given six months after signing the contract to start the work. An extension is possible.

“According to our code, from the time the permit is issued, the contractor has 12 months to substantially complete the project,” he said. “I would hope it wouldn't drag out that long.”

The current permit is only for demolition. Dzik said that to begin construction, Mazza will have to apply for a zoning permit and present plans for the project. Mazza plans to build an affordable housing option for renters that will include two-to-three-story town homes, flats, and a three-to-four-story apartment complex.

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