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Winnipeg Windsor Hotel cleanup complicated by asbestos and delays

In the aftermath of a blaze that swept through the once-standing Windsor Hotel in Winnipeg, talks of cleaning up tell a more complicated tale.

Fire crews responded to heavy smoke billowing from the hotel’s windows close to 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Once the smoke settled, it was up to Imrie Demolition to help tear the building down and what remains now is debris. Co-owner Jordan Imrie said it’s not going anywhere for a while and part of the reason for it, is the worry over asbestos.

“If there’s any asbestos, it changes the whole game on how we have to do everything. It adds a lot of costs and a lot of time, and we can’t do it in winter,” said Imrie.

“If the fire has destroyed the building, then we need to use asbestos procedures for the whole demolition. The entire building needs to be bagged and hauled to the dump at a huge cost to the customer.”

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A procedure to haul such materials, noted the business owner, costs more than that of dumping normal waste. It would involve digging a pit in a landfill, a perfect ground to dump the material. Imrie said that anyone working on the site would have to wear full hazmat suits, in case there is asbestos.

While much of this is a concern to him, he said he’s also worried about the time it would take to rid the area of the debris. As the process would play out, Imrie said it could end up leading to people illegally dumping into the area or scavenging it.

“I just don’t see a reason why we need to delay these things any longer. I think some of these buildings are sitting for years now and they won’t let us clean it up,” said Imrie.

For city coun. Cindy Gilroy, the burning and demolition of Windsor Hotel points to the need for a faster system of tidying up debris and demolished properties. She said that the city is considering charging the hotel owners the cost of the demolition through taxes.

According to Gilroy, it’s important to make cleaning up a lot more affordable for property owners and in order to do so, she said the city could help pay or cover for some of the costs related to it. She also said she’d want to cut or waive the city’s tipping fees at the Brady Road landfill, pointing to how it costs nearly half the price tag for cleaning up.

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“There are things that the city can do to make those costs a little bit less for the owners to make sure that they do (clean up),” said Gilroy “There will be some cost to the city, but we can’t just leave the rubble sitting there.”

Aside from the costs related to cleaning up and removing the remnants of former buildings, the councillor said the process of tearing down a building requires property owners to have the plan to rebuild. It’s something, she said, that is acting as a barrier to the removal of many vacant buildings in the city. With the Windsor Hotel, said Gilroy, that requirement was waived making it easier to bring it down.

Gilroy noted that buildings don’t have to remain vacant as long as there is a way to keep them on track.

“We can actually stop some of these buildings from being vacant if we made sure that there was funding available to keep them; to put them in code, keep them in code and make them really good, livable spaces for people,” said Gilroy.

Global News reached out to the lawyer representing the Windsor Hotel’s owner but didn’t hear back.

— With files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s historic Windsor Hotel burns down'

Winnipeg’s historic Windsor Hotel burns down

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