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Phila. Lawmakers Tackle Competing Interests For New Demolition Safety Rules

(The demolition site at 2136 Market Street, taken by a concerned passerby the day before the deadly collapse.  The Salvation Army thrift store, in which six people were killed, is at far right.  Photo by Laura Mierson.)

(The demolition site at 2136 Market Street, taken by a concerned passerby the day before the deadly collapse. The Salvation Army thrift store, in which six people were killed, is at far right. Photo by Laura Mierson.)

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) — The devil is always in the details, and that’s particularly true in Philadelphia City Council today.

Lawmakers are getting down to the business of changing the city code to improve the safety of demolitions, in the wake of the fatal Market Street building collapse last June.

Members of Council’s special committee on demolitions introduced five bills that embody most of the 71 recommendations in their final report (see related story).

“What we hope to do is work with the (Nutter) administration to figure out what is the best course going forward to provide safety in demolition.  I think that’s a mutual goal,” said Councilman Curtis Jones, who was chair of the investigative committee.

But there are a number of hurdles for the measures to become law, including:

  • reservations within the development community to the added cost of mandated safety inspections, site safety plans, and engineering reports;
  • concern among some councilmembers about the degree to which the legislation favors unionized contractors to the possible exclusion of smaller, minority-owned contractors; and
  • the cost to the city of additional staffing of the Department of Licenses and Inspections;

Jones, for his part, says Council is willing to budget for more city inspectors.

“There are plans to train, hire, and get more L&I inspectors on the books,” he said today.   “We just need to let the administration know that that is our expectation, and their expectation is cooperation by way of budget.”

And Jones says that given the Market Street tragedy, the issue of added costs to demolitions cannot take precedence over safety.

“At the end of the day we have to put our heads together as to what is the price of safety improvements.  And the answer to that is priceless.  But we have to itemize those prices, and work on budgetary solutions.  The price of safety in demolition is priceless.”

Hearings will be scheduled this fall on all five pieces of legislation.  Six people died in the collapse, more than a dozen others were seriously injured, and a grand jury continues to probe who is to blame.

BUILDING COLLAPSE COMPLETE COVERAGE

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