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Hessinger building reprieve

Lawyers negotiate a way forward

By FRITZ MAYER

CALLICOON CENTER, NY — The fate of the historic Hessinger Building in Callicoon Center remains unclear, but a judge has issued an injunction preventing the Town of Callicoon from moving forward with plans to have it torn down.

The demolition had been scheduled to begin on January 24, but Liberty lawyer Ron Litchman filed court papers with Judge Frank LaBuda that brought a halt to the process.

The injunction required that the owner, Palline Plum, acquire a liability insurance policy, which she was able to do.

In the petition Litchman filed, Plum attacked the report from Ward Engineering, which deemed the building unsafe. The most specific charge in the report said, “A second-story deck, immediately adjacent to the county highway, is temporarily shored and in disrepair. It could fall at anytime.” An affidavit filed by architect Robert Dadras said the front porch should be strengthened, but said generally the “report’s conclusions are not supported by engineering studies, load tests, or structural computations or calculations…”

Dadras also said that the building is not in danger of “imminent collapse,” echoing the opinion of historical renovation specialist Zeke Boyle, who had also examined the building.

Both Dadras and Plum attacked the conclusion of the Ward report that it might not be “economically feasible” to restore the building. Plum said in the petition, “Such speculations are beyond the scope and expertise of a ‘professional engineer.’ Moreover, an engineer’s personal opinion of the economics of a business situation—and likewise a town board’s—has no bearing on the only issue a town may lawfully address: public safety.”

Dadras also said that the Ward report’s speculation about economic feasibility was not correct. He said that because the building is historically significant, a project to restore it could be eligible for state and federal grants covering up to 40% of the cost of renovation.

Members of the Town of Callicoon Town Board defended their vote on December 13, 2010 to order that the building be demolished due to the fact that it was deemed unsafe by Ward Engineering.

On January 25, Litchman, LaBuda and the town’s attorney, Marvin Newburg, negotiated an agreement whereby the two sides would get together to dicuss the town’s concerns about the building and how to address them, and come up with a work list to be fulfilled.

Litchman said after that Plum would figure out a plan about how to bring the building back to ecnomic viability. He said Plum had many ideas about how that might happen, and they would welcome inquires about investers who might be interested in the 150 year old landmark.