The field house at Smithfield-Selma High School is no more, and that could mean a financial penalty from the state.
A contractor razed the field house over two days in late July but did not obtain a required permit from the state, said Tracey Peedin Jones, spokeswoman for the Johnston County schools.
“The contractor did not secure a demolition permit from the (N.C. Department of Health and Human Services) prior to demolition of the field house at Smithfield-Selma,” Peedin Jones said in an email.
The good news is that a separate contractor properly removed asbestos from the building before its demolition, said Kate Murphy, DHHS spokeswoman. Asbestos was once common in building insulation, but prolonged exposure can cause lung cancer.
“The N.C. Division of Public Health’s Health Hazards Control Unit did not receive a demolition notification for the Smithfield-Selma site,” Murphy said. “After learning that we did not receive notification, we made a site visit. Our inspectors determined that the asbestos-containing materials were removed in the proper manner.”
The state agency made that determination after reviewing the demolition project’s paperwork. The agency “concluded that the asbestos paperwork was acceptable,” Peedin Jones said.
EEC Inc., a consulting firm hired by the school system, also confirmed the proper removal of asbestos-containing materials, specifically roof-flashing sealant and door caulking.
The schools hired Demolition and Asbestos Removal Inc., or DARI, to remove the asbestos, which the company did on June 13, a few weeks before the demolition of the building. After DARI did its work, an EEC Inc. inspector, Donnie Mercer, did a visual inspection, which confirmed no remaining asbestos-containing materials.
Still, the demolition project’s primary contractor, J.P. Edwards, failed to obtain a demolition permit, and that could lead to a state fine. DHHS has not made that call yet.
“The inspection is complete, but it is still an open case,” said DHHS spokesman Cobey Culton.
At first, the school system was reluctant to admit the contractor had dropped the permit ball. When asked for an electronic copy of the permit, Peedin Jones, the schools spokeswoman, instead forwarded various asbestos-related documents and inspection documents from the county. One of those documents, from EEC Inc., suggested the contractor might have failed to obtain the permit.
“I am not sure, in your situation, the contractor obtained the permit or not,” Mercer, the EEC inspector, said in a letter to Jimmy Clapp, who was overseeing the project for the school system.
Peedin Jones then acknowledged that the contractor had failed to obtain the demolition permit. The school system is now working to make sure such a mistake doesn’t happen again, she said.
“In an effort to prevent this type of situation in the future, we are reviewing our procedures in partnering with contractors to ensure that Johnston County Schools is following all policies and procedures required,” Peedin Jones said.
The oversight left Smithfield Councilman Perry Harris scratching his head. “You would think that our school system would follow the law,” he said in an email. “They should set an example for the community but didn’t, based on what I see.”
Jimmy Edwards of J.P. Edwards told a reporter that the company had obtained the needed permit. When asked to reconcile that statement with the school system’s admission that his company had failed to obtain the permit, Edwards hung up on the reporter.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett