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Library demolition

Demolition of the old Billings library building is expected to resume this month after asbestos-contaminated debris is removed.

In addition to a dispute between the demolition contractor and a subcontractor hired to tear down Billings’ old library, the city confirmed asbestos has been discovered in more areas, leading to oversight and testing by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“This demolition has been full of surprises,” said Jackson Contractor Group Vice President Greg Hebner. Jackson Contractor Group is the general contractor for the demolition.

One of those surprises was when a subcontractor’s construction equipment went through a floor of the building. Hebner said the equipment went through the floor when the subcontractor deviated from the work plan.

Billings City Administrator Tina Volek said no one was injured. Hebner declined to say what kind of equipment went through the floor.

Volek also confirmed that asbestos had been found in two other parts of the building not identified by inspectors when demolition began.

The DEQ was tipped off on April 14 to the presence of asbestos by Bruce Ingraham, an asbestos abatement contractor not associated with the project.

Work at the site was stopped soon after, and DEQ inspectors were sent to the work site to investigate. In any permitting application for asbestos abatement, an inspector is required to inventory all materials in the building, testing them for asbestos.

In the pile of debris that had already been removed from the building, a DEQ investigator found eight types of materials that did not appear on the inventory list, said Larry Alheim, the enforcement specialist in charge of the inquiry.

The inspector, the City of Billings and Jackson were unaware that the asbestos was still in the building, Alheim said.

After testing the materials, two were shown to contain asbestos, according to a letter sent to Jackson, L & M Excavating and The Billings Public Library by Alheim on June 5.

The letter also outlined steps that must be taken to remove the debris already demolished but still on-site and how to remove materials containing asbestos.

A plan to remove asbestos was submitted to the DEQ on Thursday, and if all plans check out, work could resume as early as June 27.

However, removal of the debris will likely add time, costs and work. Contractors will have to keep debris piles wet while they remain on the site, and those piles will have to be moved in trucks with beds lined in plastic so no other materials are contaminated in the moving process.

The land the old library sits on is scheduled to be a parking lot for the new library. And demolition materials had been slated for infill material for the new parking lot. Instead, the city will use gravel as infill, at an additional cost.

Hebner said he remains hopeful the project can still be completed by October, but said for now all work at the site has stopped until the DEQ says it can resume and until a new demolition plan can be worked out with the subcontractor.

Additional cost and timelines are still being negotiated and are both unknown, city officials said.

The city planned to have the library project Plantinum LEED certified for recycling most of the building materials from the old library building. However, because material will have to be removed because of asbestos concerns, the project may switch to a Gold LEED certification.