Judge David McKenna
Judge David McKenna
Hillsboro Municipal Judge David H. McKenna presided over a third review hearing on Aug. 7 in a civil case filed by the city of Hillsboro against J. Steven Fettro, et. al. after a building partially collapsed on West Main Street on June 3.

The court also held hearings on July 23 and July 9.

Hillsboro City Law Director Fred Beery represented the city of Hillsboro at the Aug. 7 hearing. Fettro, who is a co-owner of the collapsed building at 119 West Main Street, was in attendance and represented by Tyler Hoffman. In addition, Helen Walton, who owns an adjacent building at 117 West Main Street, was in attendance with her son, Joe Mahan.

McKenna asked the building owners their plans to alleviate the "mess," as he called it. Both property owners are in agreement that both buildings should be entirely demolished. Both also remain in discussion with their respective insurance companies.

According to Fettro, the city previously reported his building to the Ohio EPA as a "hot" teardown, due to an asbestos issue in a section of the building.  (See https://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/what-is-asbestos/)

In a letter to The Highland County Press after the hearing, Fettro said: "On July 31, I found out from one of the companies (Josh Collins) bidding on the building teardown that the (former) city safety and service director (Mel McKenzie) had called the EPA the same day the building fell and told them the building was too unstable to remove the asbestos.

"My understanding is that (Anton) Weissmann told him this. The engineering company we hired said the building was stable enough to remove the asbestos."

Fettro said there is only a 44-square-foot section of asbestos to be removed. It doesn't impact the entire structure, he said.

"The city must contact the EPA to correct this," Fettro said. "This is what's holding everything up."

Meanwhile, the city fired Weissmann on July 25, and McKenzie, who was appointed as the temporary receiver, resigned effective July 31. McKenna named interim SSD Dick Donley as the receiver on Aug. 7.

"We're heading into our third month with this – I'm going to use a legal term, here – 'mess,'" McKenna told both parties. "Anybody with eyeballs can see it's an obvious problem. What I'm hearing is that the insurance company is doing what it can to avoid spending money. The main thing is to figure out a way to get this cleaned up."

Both parties agreed to work to facilitate the property demolition and cleanup.

McKenna scheduled a fourth hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28. "We'll have a hearing three weeks from today to determine whether or not this property constitutes a nuisance and, if so, authorize the receiver to file action in Common Pleas Court," McKenna said.

"The parties are ordered to file in writing any objections to being a public nuisance five days prior (to the Aug. 28 hearing)," McKenna said. "I'll keep doing everything I can to get more bricks removed."