News » Local News | Nov. 3
The Turner Construction Company, the University’s contractor to develop the Arts and Transit Neighborhood, did not request a demolition permit from the town construction department to remove the canopy of the former Dinky station. Town officials issued Turner Construction a $2,000 fine — the maximum amount allowed under state law — after the infraction came to their attention when the canopy collapsed on Sept. 19.
While the University did articulate its plan to remove the station canopy in its site plan for the development, town and University officials confirmed, the responsibility to request the demolition permit fell under the purview of the project executive, Edward Card of Turner Construction.
Turner Construction has no intention of appealing the fine, University Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget confirmed.
“Personally, I would have required — and did require — a building permit to remove it. It is my discretion,” town construction official John Pettenati said. He explained that Turner Construction had received the necessary approval from all other relevant departments, such as the zoning and planning boards, for the canopy’s removal.
Christopher McFadden, vice president of communications for Turner Construction, did not respond to request for comment.
Town administrator Robert Bruschi said that Turner Construction may have had grounds to appeal the fine, had it so chosen, in light of the fact it that its removal plans had been delivered to town authorities.
“I don’t know that we would have been 100 percent successful if that ever came to any sort of discussion between the structure board of appeals … if they had fought it,” Bruschi said at a Tuesday meeting of the town council.
At the meeting, council members renewed concerns over the safety of Turner Construction’s plan for the structure’s demolition.
The collapse was the result of an intentional attempt to remove the structure that went awry, apparently due to an unforeseen internal weakness in the structure. Employees of Turner Construction and its subcontractor, LVI Demolition, cut a section of the canopy on the afternoon of the accident, with plans to remove the canopy on a subsequent day. As they did not use any temporary supports to hold up the structure, the canopy collapsed onto the track bed about an hour after the cut was made.
Council member Jenny Crumiller expressed concern that the approval process for demolition permits would not have required Turner Construction to alter its plans for the demolition, such as by requiring them to use temporary supports. Municipal engineer Robert Kiser confirmed that state law does not permit the town to decline a demolition permit on those grounds.
“Is that company now going to go on and do that [again]? It seems like there should be some reinforcement mechanism or repercussions to prevent that company from doing that,” Crumiller said.
Town officials confirmed that the local authority has no power to sanction plans at that level of detail or to impose any penalties for Turner Construction’s failure to use temporary supports. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration may have the power to perform these offices, Kiser said.
“It’s different in every situation … That’s why the state code can’t set forth specific criteria that our construction official has to apply,” town attorney Edwin Schmierer said, explaining that the safety approval process carried out by the local authority consists mostly of confirming the site’s safety.
“A construction official will go out and check the site to make sure that it is safe for the public — usually meaning that fencing is up, that it’s an area that the public is kept away from when the demolition takes place,” he said. “So there’s no specific checklist.”
Bruschi confirmed that the Dinky station site had been checked to determine that it posed no threat to the public that day.
“This accident occurred. There is nothing we could do to have prevented that by being more proactive,” Schmierer explained.