Crounse House to be razed

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

The Frederick Crounse House is set to be demolished next month. The Altamont Board of Trustees at a special meeting on May 13 voted to accept the lowest bid, from Greenbriar Construction Services, for $32,568, to demolish the historic structure. 

ALTAMONT — The historic Frederick Crounse House is set to be demolished in June.

The Altamont Board of Trustees at a special meeting on Thursday voted to accept the lowest bid, from Greenbriar Construction Services, for $32,568, to demolish the structure. The town of Guilderland, which co-owns the building the village, is set to approve Greenbriar’s bid on Tuesday, during a meeting of its town board. 

Mayor Kerry Dineen said during the May 13 meeting that, in addition to the $32,568 to take down the house, there’s also a $5,000 allowance “that may or may not be used.” 

That allotment has been put aside in case the village or town “identify parts of the house that we think might be worth saving,” Trustee Nicholas Fahrenkopf said. “And then as the bidder, in this case Greenbriar, does the work, they will let us know how much it’s going to cost for them to salvage.”

Greenbriar, it was noted in the engineer’s recommendation to the town and village, was the company responsible for demolition of the former Governors Motor Inn.

During the past couple of budget cycles, the village had been setting aside $50,000 for the building’s demolition, but also had an idea about what it would cost to knock down the house without an asbestos abatement.

Having the building condemned would make demolition quicker and less expensive because the entire structure can be torn down rather than having to remove the asbestos before taking down the building. State rules say that condemned buildings can be demolished without an asbestos survey, although all materials must be assumed to contain the carcinogen, and all demolition must meet state Labor Department requirements for handling the hazardous material.

At a January board meeting, Dineen said two earlier estimates received by the village were in the $28,000-to-$30,000 range, but those figures did not include asbestos abatement — those estimates were only for knocking down the building and hauling the remnants to a hazardous-waste landfill.

During that January meeting, at which time the entire house had yet to be condemned, Fahrenkopf said he learned from the project engineer that, just because the back of the building had collapsed and been condemned, it doesn’t mean “we can automatically take it down”; an asbestos abatement would first have to be undertaken.

Fahrenkopf said in January the engineer explained that, if the village and town were to treat the house as entirely containing asbestos and raze the entire building, that “would not fly,” because the entire building had yet to be condemned — only portions of the house had been condemned so far, in particular the back part where the roof had caved in.

As recently as four to five weeks prior to the January meeting, someone from the town’s building department inspected the structure and decided against condemning the rest of the house, Fahrenkopf said.

Responding to a request for an explanation as to why the Crounse House had not been condemned, Jacqueline Coons, Guilderland’s chief building and zoning inspector, said in an email at the time, “At this time there is no imminent threat to public safety from the building as a whole. If the building becomes less stable we may be in a position to modify the existing order of condemnation.”

The building appears to have been condemned sometime between February, when the $50,000 demolition allocation was still included in the proposed 2021-22 village budget, and March, when the Crounse House budget-line item was taken out of next year’s spending plan. 

The Enterprise in April requested from Coons a report, inspector’s notes, or an explanation for what had changed with the structure between early January and March, but never received a response. 



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