Detroit contractor suspended for demolishing the wrong house — again

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — One of Detroit’s largest demolition contractors has been suspended after mistakenly tearing down the wrong house ... again.

The Detroit Building Authority issued a violation notice at 10:35 a.m. Wednesday to city-based Adamo Group for the wrongful demolition, said Brian Farkas, director of special projects for the building authority.

The contractor mistakenly started demolishing 14661 Alma Avenue, seen in the middle here.

"In a case such as this, DBA policy calls for a minimum 90-day suspension from bidding," Farkas said in a statement. "The contractor has seven days to appeal."

The city contracted Adamo on June 18 to demolish a structure damaged by a fire at 14461 Alma Ave. on the city's east side. The city paid $25,201 for the demolition, but on Nov. 22, the contractor mistakenly knocked down the structure at 14661 Alma Ave.

Both of the buildings are Detroit Land Bank-owned structures, Farkas said. Nearly all of the homes on the street have been boarded up and many lack visible addresses. 

Richard Adamo, president of the Adamo Group, announced Wednesday he would step down immediately from the Wrecking Board, which advises the director of BSEED (Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department) on matters relating to the licensing of wrecking contractors. The board consists of seven members, who are appointed by the mayor.

The fire-damaged home that was supposed to be demolished stands at 14461 Alma Avenue.

The contractor notified the land bank of the wrongful demolition on Dec. 10. The Detroit Building Authority was notified on Dec. 11 and notified the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, Farkas said.

Adamo was suspended for 90 days in May 2018 for a similar offense.

The group took nearly a month to notify city officials it mistakenly knocked down another land bank-owned house at 5792 Holcomb, that according to records, hadn’t yet been abated for asbestos, rather than the neighboring property, 5798 Holcomb, it had been contracted to tear down.

"It is standard DBA policy that if a contractor has no other violations for one year after a suspension, that offense will not be considered again if a new violation occurs," Farkas said.

Christian Hauser, an attorney for Adamo, admitted Wednesday that the firm "inadvertently demolished an abandoned residential structure in the city of Detroit."

He said the field supervisor and operator responsible for the demolition were immediately terminated upon discovery of the mishap.

"As soon as our management team became aware of this situation, we notified the general counsel for the DLBA, who in turn advised the DBA," he said in a statement. "Since then, Adamo has fully cooperated with both entities and takes full responsibility for this situation."

Hauser said there is no environmental danger as a result of the mistake and the structure wasn't occupied.

"In all likelihood, this house would ultimately have been demolished in the future by the DLBA," he said.

The contractor mistakenly partially demolished 14661 Alma Avenue.

Adamo, which has been among the contractors bidding on houses under a blight elimination effort that ramped up in Detroit in spring 2014, has had an “excellent track record” with the program, Farkas said after the first offense in May 2018. He noted at the time that the firm had done more than 3,200 demolitions without any prior Michigan Department of Environmental Quality violations.

No asbestos survey had been conducted on 14461 Alma prior to the demolition, Farkas said.

"All standard environmental procedures were followed during the demolition," he said. "The structure was wetted for five minutes prior to the knockdown and water also was sprayed to envelop dust during demolition."

The program has been the focus of state, local and federal reviews after concerns were raised in fall 2015 over bidding practices and spiraling costs.

A Detroit News investigation in September revealed a lack of controls allowed demolition contractors to charge the federal government whatever they wanted for more than two years for dirt used to fill holes at demolition sites. 

Several contractors in the program faced suspensions in summer 2017 amid claims they doctored photographs of sidewalks to obtain payment for work they had not done.

Those cases emerged from an investigation conducted by the city’s Office of Inspector General after the Detroit Land Bank Authority raised concerns.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_