An abandoned courthouse in Monticello now demolished as village officials plan to replace it with a new community development project. Our Eva McKend has more on their plans and a controversy that disrupted what was intended to be a positive move forward for the village.
MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- It was a demolition intended to mark a fresh start for the Village of Monticello. A building that was once a garage and a long time courthouse will get new life.
But not even hours after a large excavator ripped through the building, sources say, the contractor, Mike Soto, was questioned by the Department of Environmental Conservation police for illegal dumping. Soto denies any wrongdoing.
"I don't know what's illegal about taking down property that's dangerous. If I was dumping on property, it was my own property and I was doing it for awhile," said Soto.
Village officials say temporarily the now fallen structure will turn into a parking lot but eventually the plan is to turn it into a youth center with basketball courts.
But why was their contractor who spoke about the low project quote he was giving the village sitting in the State Police barracks in Liberty? Village officials say it's a question the mayor will have to answer.
"It doesn’t put a damper on things. I can only assume that our mayor/manager took the right steps and made the right precautions for this arrangement to happen," said Larissa Bennett, a Village of Monticello trustee and the deputy mayor for the village.
Before the controversy, Trustee Carmen Rue and Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden agreed it was time for the 90 year old building to come down.
"It was built in 1923 and in 2005, they found out there was asbestos. It was not safe. It needed to be removed because it would have cost more money to fix it," said Rue.
"Prior administrations had promised that the building would come down. We're trying to improve our village and make a future for our kids," said Snowden.
The DEC says the investigation is ongoing and would not comment on the alleged activity behind the Burnwell Oil building near Cold Spring Road. Soto maintains his innocence and says he was sorting the debris at a location he owns before bringing it to a landfill.
"I've been bringing a tub grinder there and I've been bringing stuff from there to the dump in large amounts," said Soto.