Council approves emergency remediation of old pool hall

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Columbiana City Council has approved the emergency remediation of a deteriorating property in the city’s downtown area.

The council held a public hearing in its June 18 meeting for the property, known as the old pool hall and located at 108 South Main Street, before voting in favor of a resolution on its remediation.

The property, owned by H.L. Conwill, was declared a public nuisance by the city’s Public Safety Committee last year.

Attorneys Ben Goldman and Kelly Fox with Hand Arendall LLC were present at the meeting to guide the council through the hearing and answer questions about documents related to the property in council members’ packets.

The documents included a report from the city filed in October 2018 regarding the deterioration of the structure; an initial letter from the city sent to the property owner in October 2018 requesting immediate demolition of the property; a receipt confirming the police chief’s delivery of the letter to the property owner’s office in November 2018; lis pendens filed in Shelby County Probate Court in May 2019 regarding the property as “unsafe to the extent it is a public nuisance” and in danger of collapsing into sidewalks and right-of-way; delivery confirmation of lis pendens to the owner’s personal residence on June 3, 2019; photographs taken of the property; and a letter from the owner of a building that shares a common wall with the old pool hall expressing concerns about possible water damage to her property.

Goldman said the property’s condition had become “worse over recent time,” prompting the city to hold the hearing.

A public notice of the June 18 hearing was posted before the council’s June 4 meeting at Columbiana City Hall, the Columbiana Public Library, Columbiana Water Works and the property itself.

At the start of the hearing, nobody responded to Goldman when he asked if anyone was present to speak on behalf of the property.

Goldman then asked Director of Streets and Maintenance Allen Reynolds to confirm his findings of the property being unsafe and in need of demolition.

“This is a remediation action with intent to be done on an emergency basis,” Reynolds said. “It’s just a public hazard. It’s unsafe to walk down the sidewalk with the shape it’s in. The roof is collapsing in on itself.”

Mayor Stancil Handley said city leaders have discussed the property’s condition “at great length,” and have made numerous attempts to notify and prompt the property owner to take action.

“It’s something we have fought hard to avoid doing,” Handley said. “But it’s something we’re forced to do. I don’t like it.”

The council postponed a public hearing for the property in a June 4 meeting to allow more time for a potential buyer to work out a purchase, but to no avail.

Handley said the cost to demolish the building could total about $75,000.

With the emergency remediation approved, the city’s next steps are to engage a structural engineer, mold and mildew specialist and asbestos specialist to assist the city with demolition planning.

“We have taken steps as quickly as possible to get this rectified,” Handley said. “The right thing, I believe, is to get rid of the hazard.”