Demolition mistake forces Chester man from home

May 18, 2011 2:44:28 PM PDT
A Chester man might have to move because of a big mistake.

A crew was supposed to demolish the home next door, but they damaged his place in the process.

The demolition of 503 Kerlin Street went wrong and brought part of the common wall with 501 Kerlin Street. A picture from last week shows it started with a crack but, a Chester official says, last weekend's rain lead to the collapse.

Alonzo Burton is the unhappy owner of 501. He wants to rebuild but says, so far, he has not heard from the demolition contractor's insurance company.

"We would be negotiating back and forth the cost to fix this but, as of a week now, no insurance agent," said Burton.

However, Burton doesn't live in the home. He rents it to 84-year-old Oscar James, who has lived there for more than 30 years.

For now, a family friend has taken him in.

"I'm hanging in there," James said. "You do the best you can."

Chester officials blocked streets around the site as city staffers spent the day trying to figure out what to do next - repair 501 or tear it down.

"I just finished talking to the mayor so an engineer is on his way to get his determination," said Public Safety Director John Linder.

Authorities want to make sure 501 doesn't collapse before it can be repaired. They are waiting for an engineering report to see if the building can be safely stabilized then the streets can be re-opened.

Burton says the demolition company wants to make the repairs itself. Given this mess, he said he is leery of that offer.