Council Presses For Answers On Demo Work After Deadly Collapse - FOX 13 News

City Council Presses For Answers On Demo Work After Deadly Collapse

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PHILADELPHIA -

Administration officials came before City Council's new investigative committee with orders not to talk about the building collapse at 22nd and Market because of an ongoing grand jury probe.

But that didn't stop council members from raising questions about the demolition project-turned-tragedy that took six lives and injured 13.

"The purpose of this hearing is to see what needs to be changed and to change it as quickly as possible," said Councilman James Kenney.

Kenney placed his focus on whether the site contained asbestos, whether the demolition contractor got the proper permits, and had any asbestos been cleaned up before the demolition started and the tragedy occurred.

"When I look at the first-in construction workers who helped with the rubble, first-in police officers and firefighters, what were they inhaling?" Kenney asked.

"We are looking forward to working with the committee to come up with best practices to try to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future," Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams told the committee.

While the administration pushed its new reforms for demolition work imposed after the collapse, the committee questioned why the city had different standards for public and private demolition jobs.

And they asked why the city had no educational or work experience requirements for L&I inspectors who check on demolition work.

"I think what you really need in this day and age are educational requirements and prior experience," Kenney added.

"I think our guys are trained adequately." Williams responded. "I think they are very well prepared to do their jobs."

The three-hour hearing ended with a barrage of questions for city officials from reporters. Chief among them was why it took a deadly collapse to tighten the rules and requirements for demolition work.

"We have acted always up to the code and the standards of the code that were in effect at the time," said Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison.

"We need to fix the problem and that's where we're going," Kenney said.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter says the city did receive an asbestos report before the demolition work began. He did not know if any asbestos was removed. The spokesman also added that private and public safety requirements will now be the same under the mayor's proposed changes.

Another city official told FOX 29 News that more federal money is needed for OSHA so that more inspections and oversight will occur at demolition sites across the region.

City officials refused to answer questions about the grand jury probe and whether city officials had received search warrants or subpoenas in connection with that investigation.

City Inspector General Amy Kurland also attended the hearing. She, too, is investigating.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says L&I doesn't have the manpower or the money to properly police city demolition projects. He says L&I needs 50 to 60 more inspectors to do the job right.

The mayor plans to add 20 new inspectors.

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