City closes 2 downtown streets, may demolish unsafe building

Published 12:49 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Two city streets were closed after Tuesday night's council meeting.

Two city streets were closed after Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Cites need for safety after engineer says walls could fall

The City of Andalusia immediately closed two city streets Tuesday night after a structural engineer confirmed a three-story building at 101 Pear Street and South Cotton Street is unstable.

The council held an emergency abatement hearing about the property, which is owned by Tisdale Family Properties, during its regular meeting.

buildingJohn Tisdale, who spoke during the hearing, agreed to stabilize the building in the next two weeks, or it will be demolished.

Andy Wiggins, director of planning, recommended that the building be demolished. Wiggins said he believes the potential repairs could not be completed within a reasonable time or within reasonable cost relative to the value of the building.

Both Tisdale and the structural engineer he employed, Brad Johnson of Johnson and Associates Engineering of Dothan, spoke at the hearing. Johnson inspected the building on Aug. 4.

In a letter to Tisdale dated Aug. 10, 2016, and shared with city code officials, Brad Johnson stated, “The removal of the wood framed floor and roof systems from the northern portion of the building has rendered the remaining exterior walls at these locations structurally unstable against lateral (wind) loads.”

His letter also stated that the building is likely suffering substantial decay due to water intrusion where the roof and floors have been removed.

Johnson wrote – and restated Tuesday night – that the walls could be made safe with new roof and floor systems adequately attached to the existing walls, or with the construction of a steel frame behind the walls.

Mayor Earl Johnson repeatedly asked Brad Johnson and Tisdale when the repairs could be completed.

Brad Johnson said plans to stabilize the exterior walls aren’t complete, but that he could have them completed “in a couple of days.” He said he was not sure of the availability of steel, but, barring complications, Tisdale should be able to secure them within two weeks.

Tisdale said he would try to secure the walls within the time period. The council agreed to abate the property as recommended for demolition, but put it on hold until Sept. 21. It will close the two streets for those two weeks.

Tisdale argued that he has done work on the Pear Street building and has more planned, “There’s no need to tear this building down, other than to tear something down that I own.”

He also claimed that the property is being abated because he refused last week to sign a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit he filed against the city earlier this year regarding other properties he owns that are currently in the abatement process.

Tisdale said he refused to sign the settlement agreement last Tuesday.

“I not only got in the newspaper on Wednesday, but on Thursday, this property was abated,” Tisdale said.

Last Wednesday, this newspaper reported that Tisdale’s refusal to grant the city an easement on Devonwood Drive means the city cannot use a $120,000 NRCS grant to repair the road, part f which has been closed since flooding in December.