HUSTONVILLE — Traffic in Hustonville is no longer haunted by a road closure that has caused small detours for close to 10 months.
The city reopened the block of Liberty Road south of Main Street Monday night, Mayor David Peyton said.
The short stretch of road had been closed since the west wall of the old Hustonville Haunted House building partially collapsed onto the street in February.
Sunday night, most of the building collapsed in the midst of several days of rain for Lincoln County.
No one was injured in the collapse, but the building's owner Paul Gray had been inside hours before the building came down, Peyton told city council members Wednesday night at a special meeting to declare an emergency concerning the collapse.
Peyton said Gray was in the building to close a door that had opened unexpectedly. He said he thinks the door was probably "popped open" as the wall around it began to flex prior to the collapse.
The city council voted unanimously to declare an emergency, approving of Peyton's move to quickly knock down portions of the building's walls that were still standing after the major collapse.
The Hustonville Volunteer Fire Department used a water cannon Sunday night to knock down some portions of a wall that could have further collapsed onto other properties, and Peyton hired contractor Tommy Owens to knock down another wall and clear away rubble on Monday.
Owens' workers cleared away an estimated 15 dump-truck-loads of rubble from the site, and by the end of the day the city was able to reopen Liberty Road, Peyton said.
Peyton and city council members agreed with the road reopened, the path to the north side of Hustonville is much less obstructed for the fire department.
"It could be the difference between pulling somebody out of a house and pulling a body out of a house," Peyton said.
Hustonville Fire Chief and City Councilman Jimmy Lane said he believes Peyton made a "good, safe decision."
Richard Cooper said Peyton "represented the city of Hustonville well."
Peyton said knocking the walls down before they could fall on neighboring properties was also important because it's possible an owner could have sued the city, claiming it knew the walls were dangerous and didn't act.
"Seems like that's what everybody's wanting to do these days is sue the little city of Hustonville," Peyton said.
Further work needed
While the street has been reopened, the former site of the Hustonville Haunted House is still a large pile of rubble and the adjacent Simpson building is in such bad shape city officials believe it will need to be condemned.
There are now holes in the wall of the Simpson building that bordered the haunted house and the building is extremely unstable, Peyton said.
"That building is in such dilapidated condition, there's no choice but to take it down," he said.
Peyton said the city must hire an asbestos consultant to confirm there is no asbestos in what's left of the haunted house structure before it can bid out the remainder of the cleanup work.
The building was constructed in 1902, well before the time asbestos was used in construction, so the consultant will likely give the all-clear, Peyton said.
If Owens — the contractor who did the emergency cleanup — is awarded the rest of the cleanup work, he will "give us a break" on the cost of his initial work, Peyton said.
If the city winds up hiring someone else to finish the cleanup, Owens' charges will probably be substantially higher, he added.