Demolition firm admits it erred by tearing down Sheraden home

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A Richland-based demolition contractor was faulted by the city of Pittsburgh Wednesday for tearing down a Sheraden home that was the subject of a court-ordered reprieve.

The city hired P.J. Deller Excavating and Hauling in October to raze 3222 Motor St. and 3224 Motor St., both of which were condemned, Chief Building Inspector John Jennings said Wednesday.

But when the owner of the latter house went to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court and got a six-month stay, the city told the contractor, verbally and in a letter, not to take it down. The stay, dated Nov. 3, gave the owner six months to get a building permit and repair unsafe conditions.

Last week, though, the demolition firm flattened both houses. A manager at Deller "admits that he forgot the do-not-demolish order," said Mr. Jennings.

The owner of the home, Lorraine Nickel of Washington, Pa., was in the process of selling it to Andre Hall of East Liberty. Mr. Hall "really put a month's worth of work into the home," said Ms. Nickel, who raised her children there.

She said Mr. Hall has found an attorney. Mr. Hall could not be reached for comment. No one from Deller was available for comment.

Mr. Jennings said that if Ms. Nickel or Mr. Hall had gotten a building permit and posted it in the window, that might have prevented the demolition. Ms. Nickel said she and Mr. Hall were planning to get the building permit this week.

"We have stopped any contracting from going to P.J. Deller until further notice," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Mr. Jennings said the firm will be paid $4,900 for its work on 3222 Motor St., but nothing for the demolition of Ms. Nickel's property. He noted that Ms. Nickel owed $15,000 in back taxes to the city for the house.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who represents Sheraden, said that neighbors are not sad about the unauthorized razing.

"We're receiving phone calls that residents of that area are pleased that the homes were both torn down," she said. "They had, in the past, seen homes that were condemned that were eligible to be torn down but that were not, and they were not refurbished in a timely fashion."

Nonetheless, the mistake leads Ms. Kail-Smith to the conclusion that the city should try to give more demolition contracts to firms located within its limits, rather than suburban companies.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542.


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