By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the first anniversary of the deadly June 5th demolition site collapse at 22nd and Market Streets that killed six and injured 13 approaches, CBS 3’s Walt Hunter sat down with Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams to learn more about promised reforms and the agencies actions prior to the collapse.
The Commissioner told Hunter the agency has launched a “new mission” to crack down on suspected unsafe construction and demolition sites.
Asked by Hunter, “why did it take six people dying to make these things happen?”, the Commissioner responded, “We were following what the building codes had established at the time.”
Williams stated he has not disciplined any L and I workers in connection with the collapse.
“Do you or any part of the L and I Department accept any responsibility for any part in the tragedy that took these lives?,” Hunter asked.
“I think if you talk to anyone in this department,” Williams answered, “Everyone feels some responsibility for that.”
The Commissioner showed Hunter pictures of dangerous sites which are now the focus of an aggressive inspection and enforcement blitz. Total inspections, Williams points out, increased nearly 300 percent to more than 9,000 – along with a 400 percent increase in Stop Work Orders to more than 200, from the same time period the previous year.
“Things needed to change,” Williams stated, “And we need to improve and evolve and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
Soon, signs and public on-line portals will make important information about sites easily available. But improvements come with a cost: $1.96 million just for additional manpower. Asked if the price of a new marketing campaign, with ads highlighting new L and I procedures on radio and in print, was money well spent, the Commissioner replied, “when you hear the ad campaign about ‘get a permit’, ‘make sure a contractor is licensed,’ those are some basic responsible actions a person can take.”
Finally, the Commissioner told Hunter, as this anniversary approaches, like the victims, their families, and many residents, he is haunted by memories of that terrible day.
“I think about it everyday, coming to work at the department every day,” Williams stated. “We don’t forget about it. The only thing you can do is to work hard to make sure, or try to ensure, that it doesn’t happen again.”
The contractor and an equipment operator have now been criminally charged in the collapse and are awaiting trial.
Findings from a grand jury, and a special investigating committee, with answers about the collapse and its cause, are expected in upcoming months.