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Fredonia to clean up Christmas Eve fire site

The Fredonia Board of Trustees agreed Monday to hire a contractor for a cleanup at the site of a Christmas Eve fire.

No one was hurt in the early morning blaze blamed on an overheated electrical strip, but the house at 14 Forest Place was damaged so badly that authorities ordered an emergency tear down. Seven months later, there is still rubble on the site and village officials think it is an eyesore and hazardous to the public.

S. St. George Enterprises of Fredonia will now work to clear the site, after the trustees approved a $21,925 contract with the company Tuesday. Village Treasurer Erlyssa LeBeau said there was a lower bidder but they would take at least eight weeks to clear the site, whereas S. St. George can work there much more quickly.

“I did talk to Chuck (LaBarbera, Fredonia’s top code enforcement officer) this morning regarding this,” said Trustee Roger Britz. “There’s still a 10-day wait on it once we tell them we’re going in to clean it up, and then after that we’re free to go in and start cleaning it up.”

Mayor Doug Essek asked LeBeau, “Do you have any knowledge of recouping this, whether it be through taxes or a lien on the property, or is it anything we have discussed with our attorneys?”

The treasurer said the village would have to discuss pursuit of legal actions with its attorneys.

“I think that would be the course to take once we take care of this,” Essek said.

Trustee Evadawn Bashaw said the village had no idea how much the homeowner’s insurance company paid out, but Britz said the owner has received a check.

“So the idea is that the village won’t actually expend money on this, is that we will be recouping 100 percent of our costs?” Trustee James Lynden asked.

“That’s the final hope of this, yes,” Essek replied. “We’d have to file suit against the insurance company or the homeowner for recouping these costs. This has to be done, it’s a public health hazard.”

“We’ve gotten into a public health hazard,” Britz agreed. “The time frame has gone beyond that, it’s time we remove it.”

Village officials then discussed whether they could use Chautauqua County landfill credits to help offset the cost of the waste disposal. They didn’t come up with a clear answer but Essek suggested that LaBarbera, who was not at the meeting, find out if the credits could be used.

“I’m sure St. George contracting would understand and change the total amount based on if we were able to utilize the credits,” Essek said.

Despite the question about using the landfill credits, the trustees agreed that the debris must be removed as soon as possible and wound up passing the cleanup contract by a 4-0 vote.

“It needs to be done. It’s for the safety of the community,” Lynden said.

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