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Norwood debris cleanup expected to continue this summer

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NORWOOD — Cleanup of the former Norwood Elementary School’s ruins is expected to continue this year as the village prepares the site for development.

The school was destroyed in a 2009 fire. Debris removal began in 2012.

The village Board of Trustees agreed Monday to continue working with GYMO Engineering, Watertown, to remove the remaining debris.

Norwood’s budget year begins June 1. The village will not raise taxes, according to Mayor James H. McFadden, but as long as enough money is available, the school cleanup’s second phase will begin this summer.

The cleanup probably will cost about $20,000, the same as the first phase.

Norwood has faced numerous financial and legal hurdles in its attempts to remove the rubble.

Initially, it was believed all of the debris would have to be treated as contaminated with asbestos, which would have cost the village about $350,000 to remove.

In 2012, the village received a site-specific variance that allowed workers to separate contaminated material from the rest of the debris, dramatically reducing the work’s cost.

The village spent years trying to contact I.B. Holdings Inc., a Florida company that owned the property until last summer, in an attempt to get it to pay for part of the cleanup’s cost. The company finally responded last year, paying for most of the first phase of debris removal and signing away the deed for the land to the village, which will be on its own for funding future cleanup phases.

The first phase of cleanup removed most of the asbestos-contaminated debris, which was disposed of by the Development Authority of the North Country at its landfill in Rodman. The ruined school’s front wall still stands.

If all goes according to plan, the worst of the damage will be removed by the summer’s end.

One acre of the property will be turned into a park to commemorate the school, which was built in 1885.

No specific uses have been discussed for the rest of the property, although Mr. McFadden said it is ripe for development.

“That would give us an 11-acre lot in a really upscale residential area of our village,” he said.

All that will remain is a single wing of the school added in the 1980s. The wing was not heavily damaged by the fire, and the village plans to renovate it with a possible conversion into office space, Mr. McFadden said.

“We have some inquiries about it already,” Mr. McFadden said, although he said he did not want to talk about who had expressed interest in the building.

Renovations on the surviving wing are expected to begin in 2014.

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