Businesswoman says city knew collapsed building was unsafe

Businesswoman says city knew collapsed building was unsafe (Image 1)

A Columbia woman says the city knew a building beside her business was unsafe months before it collapsed.

Frances Dickson owns a beauty shop, which she claims was damaged, next door to the dilapidated building that collapsed on the night of September 26.

She told Nashville's News 2 Investigates she is demanding the city take action, as well as make repairs to her structure.

“The city attorney closed us down on Friday and Saturday. I lost two major days of income. Now my ceiling leaks. Water pours in when it rains round the fuse box. There's a crack between my building and I can see a blue tarp through the cracks in my building,” Dickson said, adding, “The city is doing nothing for me, they won't listen or take my calls or come and look at it. I'm angry. I'm very angry.”

According to Dickson, prior to the collapse, the city put up crime tape in an effort to keep people away.

Now, nearly a month later, the run-down building is cordoned and covered with a blue tarp.

“I walk my ladies to their vehicles for fear they will be hit by a brick,” Dickson said.

Nashville's News 2 Investigates spoke with city manager Tony Massey who admitted the city knew the building was in poor condition prior to the incident.

Massey, however, added city engineers did not feel the structure was a threat to collapse, so it was cordoned off while the city tried to work with the owner to take action.

“You really don't want to demo old historic structures if you don't have to,” he said. “It was not at a point to go forward with a demolition until it got to a point of disrepair that we had no choice.”

As the building became more unstable over the months, the city scheduled the structure for demolition, but a group then expressed interest in buying and renovating the structure which delayed the plans.

“Obviously you want to try and encourage development. You want to try and have historic buildings renovated,” Massey explained.

However, in between negotiations, the building crumbled.

Massey said the same financial group is considering buying and rehabilitating the structure.

He added it cost $8,000 to stabilize the building following its collapse.  A complete demolition could cost tax payers two or three times that amount.

If the building is sold, refurbishing the structure will not cost tax payers anything.

Dickson said she has not called her insurance company because she fears it will raise her rates.

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