PELL CITY -- The demolition of the former St. Clair County Hospital on Dr. John Haynes Drive was delayed after workers discovered hazardous materials inside a sub-basement to the building.
City Manager Brian Muenger said the sub-basement had a sump pump, which pumped water from the space, but power to the structure had been cut off for years.
He said underground water flooded the space, which was only discovered this week.
Muenger said workers pumped the water from the space only to discover additional material that must be removed before the mechanical demolition of the hospital could begin.
“I don’t like delays, but there is no way to proceed without first removing the material,” he said.
Muenger said it is only a small amount of “fire-proofing material” that must be removed.
He said it could be at least until mid-week before workers actually begin to dismantle the former hospital with mechanical equipment.
Virginia Wrecking Company moved in large heavy equipment in preparation for the mechanical demolition. That equipment included a “high-reach track hoe.”
The high-reach track hoe has large shears that will cut like scissors into any materials.
Officials said the large track hoe will bite off large chunks of the building, starting at the top and working down towards the base.
Craig Wintzell, job site superintendent for Virginia Wrecking Company, said once the mechanical demolition begins, it will take about a week to pull down the top portion of the hospital walls, so that two to three track hoes with shorter reaches can remove the lower remaining walls.
Muenger said the site of the former hospital is prime commercial property and once developed can produce jobs and generate additional tax revenue for the city.
The property is jointly owned by the city and the St. Clair County Commission.
Last year, the City Council and County Commission jointly approved an option agreement with Bill Ellison, Southside Land Venture LLC, to market the property for a commercial retail development.
Ellison has an option to buy the 19-acre site outright for $4 million.
Under the agreement, the city and county would continue forward with the demolition of the hospital in an effort to make the property more attractive for commercial retail use.
The former hospital site is south of Interstate 20, next to the McSweeney Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram car dealership. To the east is the Pell City Board of Education Central Office. The property is adjacent to and visible from I-20.