FAIRHOPE — Asbestos found in eight locations in the Fairhope K-1 Center could delay work on renovating the almost century-old structure, city officials said.Richard Johnson, public works …
FAIRHOPE — Asbestos found in eight locations in the Fairhope K-1 Center could delay work on renovating the almost century-old structure, city officials said.
Richard Johnson, public works director, said inspections of the building, constructed in 1925, found the material, which will have to be removed before renovations can proceed.
"We kind of wrongly assumed that the construction project would include the abatement of asbestos," Johnson said. "We cannot do that. We have to take care of that before we issue a project for construction."
Johnson told city council members at a recent work session that Thompson Engineering, which had been hired to assess the building, had the tests performed.
"They had engaged Southern Earth Science to do what we call a qualitative analysis for asbestos, which means that sampled 20 known building materials from that generation of the building and tested for asbestos and we did get, I think, eight hits in building materials that were present in that structure that did have asbestos," Johnson said. "Mostly it was pipe insulation, which is very common and it's, unfortunately, the worst type. It's about 65% asbestos and it's highly friable."
Asbestos was used in the past for insulation, fire-proofing and other construction purposes. It was later found to cause cancer.
Fairhope bought the building from the Baldwin County Board of Education in 2019. In July 2022, city officials announced that Fairhope had received a $2.5-million federal grant to develop the K-1 Center building as a business resource hub for technology entrepreneurs.
The city and Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance are working together on the project as part of Hatch Fairhope.
At the Sept. 12 work session, Councilman Jack Burrell said he also hoped that plans could move forward to develop part of the building as a performing arts center.
"Where are we at with a performing art center at that location because I would think you'd want that design to be included in that, even if we have to pay for that separately, you'd think that it would save money and also the construction," Burrell said. "Can that be coordinated to take place at the same time. And if so, we're like way behind the eight ball if that's what we need to do."
Johnson said city officials are looking at plans for a performing arts center, but the federal grant specifies that the money must be spent for the Hatch center.
"You can't mix and match," Johnson said. "The grant is very specific for economic development."