Fire officials in Holyoke say the Essex House in downtown is in a constant state of collapse, but city council has not yet decided how to pay for its demolition.
They met for a finance committee meeting on Friday. Council chambers in city hall was packed with residents and concerned business owners.
"We are talking about safety here," Sonia Negroni, a resident near the building, said. "We are not talking about money. We are talking about safety."
Negroni fears the building will fall before the city finds out how to pay for its demolition, a demolition fire officials say is critical to the safety of the city.
"The interior of the building, the wood portions of it are all deteriorating all the way down from the roof to the basement," Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond said.
The city says the High Street building has been falling apart for years, but are now faced with a decision: Pay $1.5 million worth of taxpayer money to remove it or go after the previous owners of the building to pay?
"Make no mistake about it, we need to go after the people that caused this situation," City council president Kevin Jourdain said. "We owe that to the taxpayers."
Jourdain wants to secure the building, then take legal steps in giving the building back to the former owners to pay for it demolition.
"We need to make sure that the policy of this city is not going to be corporate welfare for slum lords because the other 100 buildings that are vacant in town, guess what the message is to all of them?" Jourdain said. "Milk it dry and we're out of here with all the dough."
Residents and business owners say they want the building down now for their safety and for the future of Holyoke.
"This is something that sooner or later has to be down" Maria Ferrer, owner of MD Beauty Salon beside the Essex House. "We're talking about downtown. We are talking about an eye sore in downtown."
City council meets Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall to vote on the future of the building.
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