MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis City Schools could have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines in connection to a botched demolition of the abandoned Florida Street school.
The Shelby County Health Department shut down demolition because the school district didn't have the proper permits in September. Contractors had started tearing out the building, exposing asbestos.
MCS school board member Sara Lewis says what's happened at Florida Elementary isn't Memphis City Schools' fault.
In an attempt to save money the district planned to tear the building down using its own employees. Before demolition began, one contractor was supposed to be allowed onto the property to take bricks for salvage.
Instead of just bricks, at least one contractor, maybe more, hauled off metal and scrap - pretty much anything. The result was a health hazard, created when asbestos was exposed.
Lewis said the person who was checked out to do all these things violated the trust of Memphis City Schools.
Now, MCS and three contractors could be fined a total of $100,000 for each of six asbestos code violations. The health department claims they failed to notify of demolition, and material wasn't handled or disposed of properly.
We tried contacting three contractors cited by the health department but never found them.
Experts are now at the school removing asbestos; a demolition company will tear down the building in the next 90 days.
Fixing the mess is costing taxpayers $126,000. But with the possible fines from the health department it will end up costing much more.
Lewis doesn't want to talk about what MCS did or didn't do wrong, but would say after being abandoned for decades it's time for the school to come down.
A hearing will be held at the health department. Memphis City Schools and the other contractors will have to try and make a case for why they shouldn't have to pay hefty fines.