Three demolition companies in Detroit recently have been indefinitely suspended from the demolition program of the city. This program has the aim of removing every blighted home in Detroit by 2024. There are about 18,000 remaining homes in the project.
These companies are under investigation. There is a rule that the company monitoring the air in a demolition must be completely unrelated to the company performing the demolition. BBEK Environmental is a demolition company. It is thought that the Warren based owner of BBEK may also have ownership ties to Green Way Services and HC Consulting, which are air monitoring companies. BBEK was one of the companies suspended and performs much of the demolition work in Detroit. And other demolition companies there just don’t have the capacity to do as much work as BBEK does. So BBEK gets a lot of the work in Detroit. BBEK is the company that did most of the required abatement work for the Detroit Land Bank Authority and the City of Detroit. It is not yet clear how much impact their suspension will cause. Tim Devine is the Land Banks general counsel. He said in a written statement that the individual abatement contractors will have to find subcontractors. The Land Bank cannot estimate broadly how long that will take, which is why it is hard to estimate how much impact will occur due to the suspension. The Land Bank will continue to work with contractors making sure that the process moves forward and hits the Hardest Hit Fund, or HHF, deadlines. The Land Bank can not make an estimate, but BBEK has some numbers to put forward. Their attorney, Rebecca Camargo estimated that 558 houses will be immediately affected, these being houses that are in need of asbestos abatement before demolition. This estimates to $2.7 million worth of work. Each of the demolition contractors for these homes are going to have to get new quotes for asbestos removal. This means the Land Bank will have a ton of work to do. With BBEK suspended it is unclear whether or not it will be possible to reach the aggressive goal the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, has made. The deadline to have all blighted houses demolished is 2024. There are about 18,000 of these homes left. Earlier this year, Duggan announced a plan to ask voters in 2020 for $200 million to take down the city’s remaining blighted buildings. This is expected to go before the City Council in September. BBEK is sure that they haven’t done anything not in compliance with the laws of Michigan or Detroit. Camargo said the company is fighting the suspension. She said that they believe 100% that Greenway and BBEK are not affiliated in any way with each other. Demolition contractors in Detroit were informed on Tuesday about the suspensions through a joint email from Detroit’s Chief Procurement Officer Boysie Jackson and Detroit Land Bank Authority Demolition Director Tammy Daniels. They wrote that the ‘relationships’ between these companies may not comply with requirements. In their email, Jackson and Daniels mentioned what requirements were at issue. They also ensured the contractors that ‘the matter has been referred to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation’. One of the main problems is that it is required for the post abatement air monitoring checks to be run by a neutral and completely independent company from the asbestos abatement contractor. Rebecca Camargo says her client was surprised by the suspension. At the end of June BBEK had spoken to Devine and had been assured everything was fine. Camargo added that she had provided proof to the Land Bank that the companies in question were not affiliated. Camargo said BBEK submitted all the paperwork proving that there was no affiliation between BBEK and Greenway. HC, though, she can’t talk about yet. Camargo said they haven’t used HC for a while anyways. According to the Land Bank, BBEK, Greenway, and HC are allowed to complete any project they have already begun. Until the OIG’s review is complete contractors are not allowed to use these companies. Until the end of business on Wednesday contractors were told to report how many properties in their charge would be affected by the suspension. Nick Schroek is an associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy. Schroek specializes in environmental law and is looking at the bright side. At least the Land Bank is taking care of this problem, he points out. Land Bank looking into these sort of relationships with air monitoring and abatement companies at the start would have been ideal, but now is better than never. It seems as if there should be a main focus on asbestos in this program, Schroeck points out. That is another one of the black eyes in this demolition program.