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Council president: It's fortuitous no one got killed

Updated: 04/30/2014 9:58 AM
Created: 04/30/2014 12:15 AM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

TROY - The president of the Troy City Council says: "It's fortuitous no one got killed."

At issue -- the way two demolition projects in the city were handled. Those projects led directly to the abrupt resignation of the city's longtime engineer.

Russ Reeves testified under subpoena Tuesday night and was kept on the hot seat for well over an hour.

The video that played inside the city council hearing room showed a steel and cement tower toppling at the Kings Fuel property in South Troy, a huge cloud of dust, and a worker running from the scene shouting profane words.

Reeves calls it an "uncontrolled" demolition.

"There is a tremendous lack of understanding of what is required to maintain public safety," he said.

Reeves is especially troubled not just because of the apparent disregard for safety protocol, but also because he feels his expertise and authority were usurped on that project.

"No one usurps that authority," he told the council members. "If you do, then you get a professional engineer's license and you be responsible for the lives of 50,000 people in this city."

Round two of the demolition controversy played out last August, when crews took down four buildings on King Street deemed an imminent threat of Fire Chief Tom Garrett, and again, without consulting Reeves. Part of the problem though was that people were allowed to remain inside the adjacent Bombers restaurant during the demolition.

"We could have had a fatality," Reeves said.

"You'd be covering something else right now if something bad had happened," said Troy Council President Rodney Wiltshire.

Wiltshire says just because there was no harm doesn't be there was no foul. That's why the council is conducting the inquiry, determined to find out if there's some sort of turf war going on between city departments.

"It does appear that there are people within the planning department that are going outside the bounds of their jurisdiction and training," Wiltshire asserted. "I will not say there's any criminal activity. I don't believe that but incompetence and ignorance, I believe, are two key things that play into that."

Wiltshire says he expects to hear future testimony from Codes Department and Planning Department employees.

It's also safe to say the Troy City Council doesn't hold a monopoly on this investigation. Reeves acknowledges he's been contacted by the FBI regarding these contracting and demolition matters.

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