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Phila. City Council Ready To Delve Into Issues Raised By Deadly Building Collapse

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(Cleanup continued the day after the building collapse that killed at least six people in center city Philadelphia.  Credit: Jericka Duncan)

(Cleanup continued the day after the building collapse that killed at least six people in center city Philadelphia. Credit: Jericka Duncan)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Shock waves from Wednesday’s deadly building collapse echoed through City Hall one day later, where councilmembers were already planing a hearing on whether the current regulations are enough.

Expect a City Council hearing this fall on the aftermath of the collapse, according to Curtis Jones, chairman of Council’s public safety committee.

“After the dust settles, we need to take a serious look at how we do demolition in the City of Philadelphia,” he told KYW Newsradio.  “We want to take a look to see if we have the proper permitting, if we’ve had the proper level of scrutiny on what the criteria are for demolition.”

And you can expect the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to be front and center at such a hearing.

Maria Quiñones Sanchez, chairwoman of Council’s L&I committee, already has questions:

“When a call is registered, is an inspection conducted?  At what point, when a permit is issued, do we go out and conduct a site inspection?”

Sanchez says one key issue is whether the city code should be toughened so that demolition permits are issued only to firms with specific qualifications.  Such a requirement is currently lacking in the code.

“In addition to looking at potential qualifications, (the question) is getting on site to make sure that people are following safety protocols,” Sanchez said.

Full Coverage of Building Collapse Story

Another question is whether L&I has enough inspectors, though Council president Darrell Clarke is hesitant to talk about any potential new hiring.

“Unfortunately, given our budgetary challenges that we have on an annual basis, we are never able to have enough inspectors,” Clarke said today.

Any Council hearing on this would not come until fall, at the earliest.  And Councilman Jim Kenney says failure to improve procedures would only compound the level of tragedy.

“It’s also a tragedy if we don’t get our arms around what we need to get our arms around, and make sure that people who are on construction sites are qualified, certified, and trained,” he said.

Other questions about demolitions in Philadelphia include whether an engineer should be on site at all times, whether it is proper to allow a third party — known as an “expediter” — to be issued a permit rather than the demolition firm itself, and whether time limits should be placed on the demolition permit.

BUILDING COLLAPSE COMPLETE COVERAGE

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