City Hall demolition begins
By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter
A downtown icon in Whiteville felt the first impacts of the wrecking ball Monday, December 18.
Demolition will begin on the 1937 City Hall, which began life as a U.S. Post office, as the city takes the first steps toward building an entirely new municipal building.
An underground fuel tank was removed from the property months ago, and lead and asbestos abatement was performed by a specialized contractor.
City crews have removed the building’s landmark federal eagle as well as the letters across the front of the building.
City Manager Darren Currie said the city hopes to save some of the other special features of the building, such as the face of the vault and the granite steps at the front.
“The steps will make a nice entry to the flag park out front,” he said.
The Oakley Collier architectural and design firm is managing the project for the city, and overseeing the demolition and construction.
Four Seasons Demolition is the subcontractor taking down City Hall. The project is expected to cost more than $2.5 million.
Motorists in the area of Madison and Columbus streets are advised to expect delays as heavy equipment is moved in and put in place for the project. Currie said the contract calls for the property to be cleared, leveled and raised within 60 days. The Horace Whitley Building, as the City Hall was officially known, developed a mold problem in recent years after organic caulking material in the basement decayed, allowing moisture to seep into the building. In 2012, planning and inspections offices were moved out of what was jokingly called “the Dungeon” after employees developed health problems due to the mold outbreak. Even after the basement was sealed, mold crept into the walls and invaded the upper floors of the building. In 2015, just before the city hall was closed, workers had to keep doors and windows open to reduce the smell of the mold.
Several customers at the water office also reported being sickened by the mold. The city moved its offices to an interim facility in the Hills Shopping Center on Madison Street in 2015. City council voted in February to demolish and replace the aging building with a new facility. A controlled burn removed a derelict home that predated the post office on one side, and the city has plans to demolish two more rundown rental homes on property behind the post office, making room for additional parking for the city hall campus.