No timetable for Country Mall cleanup


— Steve Bell, Furniture Gallery of Craig owner, said he wondered about the Country Mall investigation and the future of the site, which remains charred across Ranney Street from his business.

But, until recently, Bell was not concerned with how long the burned-out building remained there.

That is, not until someone came and hung "Danger: Asbestos" signs all along the fence across the street, he said.

"Then, they walk around in their space suits in there," Bell said. "I wonder if people look at that and worry if it's dangerous to come around here.

"There's a lot of comments from people coming into the store, asking when that eyesore is going to go away."

The Country Mall burned down Nov. 25, 2007. Chris Nichols, then-Craig Fire/Rescue chief, termed the blaze "a total loss."

The fire displaced a multitude of businesses and government offices. Some have not reopened, but others found new locations.

And as of Wednesday, there were no definite cleanup plans.

Although the Craig Police Department has not had any need of the Country Mall site since December, Chief Walt Vanatta said city officials cannot process a demolition permit until the asbestos is cleaned up.

"There's no point in condemning a building if it can't be torn down," said Dave Costa, Craig community development director.

Some studies show asbestos contributes to cancer development and other respiratory illnesses and infections.

At least one company, Kingston Environmental Services, submitted a bid to the Country Mall's owners for hazardous material cleanup. Other than asbestos, no other materials need to be removed, said Roy White, Kingston western regional manager.

Veldon "Lop" Behrman, who owns the site along with Marvin "Red" Cortner, said he and his partner are waiting for the insurance company before contracting environmental cleanup.

Their insurance provider for the Country Mall, Continental Divide Insurance Co., has taken too long to reach payment decision, Behrman said.

"It's been too long," Behrman said. "We'd like to do something, but we can't until they tell us what's what."

He added he expects to hear from Continental Divide next week. He does plan to build something else there after the building is demolished, but he couldn't yet say what.

By law, the Country Mall site needs hazardous material cleanup. Some areas of flooring had a 25 percent asbestos contamination, White said, and there were several other contamination findings, also.

He added that it is possible for wind to blow asbestos from one area to another, validating Bell's concern about his business across the street.

However, that would be unlikely in this case, White said.

"As much snow as you guys have had up there, I don't think that could happen," he said. "It would have to be dry for a couple weeks, and winds would have to get up to 20 to 25 miles per hour."

White echoed Behrman, saying Continental Divide has taken too long to reach a decision on building damage payments.

"Quite frankly," White said, "it's taken them a long time to come up with what they're going to do."

As an example, White said, his company is cleaning up after a fire in Durango that happened six weeks ago, compared to the more than months elapsed since the Country Mall burned down.

No matter what happens with payments, cleaning asbestos at the Country Mall should be a priority, White said.

"Regardless (of whether) the insurance company is going to pay," he said, "they need to get it cleaned up and cleaned up quick."

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or


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