The Lutheran Child and Family Services building on Madison Street | Alex Rogals

Discovery of previously hidden asbestos has led River Forest officials to interrupt demolition of the Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) Building at 7612-20 Madison St.

The discovery in February of the asbestos prompted four people who reside near the building, including Debbie Borman, who represents the neighborhood organization Lathrop, Ashland, Franklin Neighbors, to express their concerns about the asbestos to village officials at the Feb. 27 village board meeting.

Demolition of the LCFS Building and single-family homes at 11 Ashland Ave. and 10 Lathrop Ave. was approved by the village board last September when officials awarded a contract to Anthem Excavation and Demolition of Itasca for $284,000. 

The demolition costs will be covered by a grant for up to $350,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development. The properties are in the Madison Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

According to village officials, removal of known asbestos was completed in November. Demolition did not begin until January due to delays for utility cutoffs, but work was stopped in February when the previously hidden asbestos was discovered.

In a letter to Borman dated March 2, Village Attorney Lance Malina explained that United Analytical Services Inc. of Downers Grove performed an asbestos inspection in October 2017 and issued a report in November of that year that showed the presence of asbestos but was “preliminary in nature with no partial demolition to find hidden asbestos.”

The three buildings to be demolished have sat empty since they were purchased by the village, the LCFS building in 2017, 10 Lathrop Ave. in 2018 and 11 Ashland Ave. in 2019. 

The village actively marketed the site for redevelopment, but officials did not receive any viable proposals, leading to the decision to demolish the buildings in the hopes developers would be drawn to the site once it is cleared.

Malina said when village officials decided to bid with the known data, bid documents provided all available asbestos reporting and stated that there was clearly asbestos in the LCFS building and that the testing was limited in scope. All bids received included line items for asbestos removal, using the existing report, he added.

“Unbeknownst to the village, the contractor and asbestos subcontractor apparently made no provision for additional asbestos removal, notwithstanding the statements in the 2017 report,” Malina said in the letter. 

Village officials hired an additional asbestos consultant, Northern Environmental Development of Chicago, to conduct an independent inspection and review of the asbestos at the site, he added. 

Based on the results of that inspection, village officials are seeking proposals to remove all remaining asbestos with the hope to award a contract at the March 13 village board meeting.

Husar Abatement, the asbestos subcontractor, and Northern Environmental Development indicated no interim interaction with the remaining asbestos was needed, which was supported by the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to Malina. 

However, after discussion with the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability, village officials hired Husar Abatement to remove approximately 30 feet of linear pipe at the opening of the building, which was completed March 3.

Neighbors who spoke at the Feb. 27 meeting said they felt they and the workers on the site were at put at risk by the presence of the asbestos, in particular the 30-foot drainage pipe.

Village President Cathy Adduci said March 4 that she did not agree.

“I empathize with the residents, but we would never knowingly put them at risk,” she said. “We’ve been working with the Cook County and Illinois departments of health and neither expressed any risk. We’re just going by their recommendations.”

Matt Walsh, interim village administrator said there still is “a good amount of asbestos” that needs to be removed, adding the cost for the additional work would be covered either entirely or partially by the remaining $66,000 from the grant. If the costs exceed that amount, TIF funds would be used, he said.

The two houses will be demolished after the LCFS building goes down, Walsh said. Once all three buildings are demolished, topsoil and seed blanketing of the site will take place, weather permitting.

The Madison Street TIF District, which was created in November 2016, includes 98 tax parcels and 45 structures. The district includes the northern portion of Madison between Lathrop and Thatcher Avenue and includes several properties just north of Madison.

At the time the TIF District was created, officials estimated it could generate $25 million over its 23-year lifetime. TIF funds may be used for a variety of projects, from property acquisition to public infrastructure improvements to incentives for developers to bring in new businesses.

The equalized assessed value (EAV) of all properties within the TIF District are “frozen” during the entire life of the district. Any taxes collected with incremental increases in those property values would be placed into the TIF fund, while all taxing bodies would continue to receive their share of the base EAV of those properties.

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