News & Updates | Chautauqua County Land Bank

Portage Inn set for demolition

Posted on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 12:58 PM

From the Dunkirk Observer

WESTFIELD - And the walls will come tumbling down - the ones still standing, at least.

The dangerously decrepit Portage Inn building in downtown Westfield will soon disappear from 18-28 N. Portage St. now that the village board unanimously approved its demolition during an emergency meeting Tuesday.

Citing the structure as a public hazard, the board authorized Mayor Michael VandeVelde to enter into a contract with Empire Building Diagnostics Inc. of Depew to complete a controlled demolition at a cost not to exceed $35,000. The approved resolution notes the Chautauqua County Land Bank Corp. has assured the village that state grant funds previously obtained by it to pay for the demo in early 2016 will cover any expenses incurred for an immediate emergency demo.

"If you go over there ... you feel very uncomfortable when you're around that building," VandeVelde remarked. "You feel like something could happen right then."

VandeVelde referenced the fact that the building's entire back collapsed just over a month ago. He added a subsequent inspection revealed the roof had partially collapsed.

"And so what could very well happen is as we get snow, it's going to collapse the roof and it looks like it would pull the sides in and there's a very good chance that would push the front of the building out onto (Route) 394," he explained.

"There's a noticeable belly or bulge now in front of the building between the first and the second floors that wasn't there before, and the code officer noticed a crack on the south side of the building near the back on the side all the way up, and it's pretty wide," Village Clerk Vincent Luce pointed out.

The emergency board meeting took place after Village Code Enforcement Officer James Pacanowski condemned the building, thus ordering its immediate demolition, as stated in a letter sent to the New York State Department of Labor's Division of Safety and Health Monday. In the letter, Pacanowski deemed the vacant building "in a state of structural collapse."

Trustee Robert Cochran asked about the demo's timeframe, to which VandeVelde replied Empire Building Diagnostics has informed him it may begin work as early as Thursday.

Public Works Supervisor Ed LeBarron explained crews will begin on the north side of the building and work their way south to be able to pull the weakened south walls in.

"We cleared the bottom of the hill (on the south side) off," he added. "The town did that (Monday and Tuesday), because that's the way they'll have to remove all the demolition material."

Empire Building Diagnostics will leave a covered debris pile at the demo site to be removed at a later date, as per the approved board resolution.

Luce noted businesses located near the building have received notice of the demolition.

The Portage Inn closed in 1999. The county recently came into possession of the property after foreclosing on it for tax purposes.

VandeVelde stated he is unsure if the county will transfer the property to the village once everything is said and done, but he speculated that will be the case.

He pointed out a portion of a potential grant would convert that property into an access point for the proposed Welch Trail (which would run in part to Chautauqua Creek). A redevelopment plan was required to secure the initial grant funds to demolish the Portage Inn, Luce added.

"Any connection that any community can have to their water is obviously a plus," VandeVelde said.

"Right now, getting to Chautauqua Creek in the village, I don't know if there is access."

Access to the county's Barcelona to Chautauqua Institute Trail, the town's Little League baseball field and a large parking lot would also be improved.

The announcement of the Welch Trail grant application's results are expected Thursday, VandeVelde said.


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