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Building Demolition Still a Work in Progress Two Years Later

An abandoned grain elevator located just south of 8th and Mitchell still scars the St. Joseph skyline while repeated efforts to tear it down are thwarted. Now, a third attempt to tear it down might be stopped as well.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  Neighboring businesses have complained about the mess at an abandoned building and its owner has been fined, and yet no real progress on its demolition until now.

But work to clean up around an abandoned grain elevator south of downtown St. Joseph may hit another roadblock.

The EPA might again get involved.

For now, it's what many in the 8th and Mitchell area have been wanting to see done for some time: The clean up of a St. Joseph eyesore.

The abandoned grain elevator owned by HPI Industries sits rotting for the city and any who drive by it to see.

"Number one, it's dangerous," said Richard Kamler, owner of R&W Towing, located just one block away from the grain elevator. "They don't even cover it."

"It's just hideous to look at," said Brenda Swartz, an employee at Key Refrigeration, located just south of the building. "You can't even look outside our door without looking at it."

The elevator has been barely remaining erect while waiting to be demolished.

Last June it appeared as though the building would come down, but the EPA halted the process to test the site for contamination due to the many chemicals that had been stored at the site.

After some testing in the area, work was restarted, but again demolition was halted, this time by the City of St. Joseph.

"We then discovered that their demolition contract insurance certificate had expired, so we had to put a stop work order on it," said Steve Hofferber, the city's Inspection and Code Enforcement Director.

Kamler from R&W Towing worries that blowing gunk from the building threatens his tow trucks that cost up to a half million dollars each.

"Now all I think about is how much stuff flies off it in the air," he said. "It gets on all my trucks."

Meanwhile, the owners of the building are racking up city citations.

"They are under a dangerous building notice," Hofferber said. "They are under a trash and debris notice because they haven't been removing the debris around the building that has already been removed from around the building. They're actually also under a weed notice."

The EPA may soon re-open their investigation. Through the process of compiling information on this story, the EPA learned through KQ2 of the current demolition efforts. They now want to make sure debris taken away from the site isn't contaminated.

Until the demolition team hired by HPI Industries hear from the EPA officially, work will continue.

"Right now they are going to manually demolish it," Hofferber said. "They are sometimes making progress. People don't necessarily see that because there are a couple of people working in there."

The EPA tells KQ2 they'll be in contact with the city to see how to proceed.

Officials with HPI Industries did not return our calls for comment.

The company will appear in municipal court next Wednesday to respond to the city citations.
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