By John Burton
HIGHLANDS – Borough officials have been in discussions with state Department of Community Affairs representatives about the circumstances surrounding the falling of the second home being elevated in the borough in less than a month.
Like the first home to fall while being elevated, the second damaged home had to be demolished.
The incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, when police and emergency responders received a report that 49 Second St., which was being elevated, had fallen from the pilings it was sitting on, said Tim Hill, borough administrator.
The structure fell 10 to 12 feet, crashing to the ground, according to Dale Luebner, borough engineer.
“Due to the collapse of the structure, it had to be demolished” as a precaution because it posed a safety hazard, Hill said.
There were no reports of injuries at the site, Hill said.
Because the house fell close to the neighboring home at 47 Second St., the family there was relocated to a hotel as a precaution for the evening while their home was examined for any structural damage. None was found, Luebner said.
A large two-story Locust Street home fell on Aug. 23 while being elevated. The home, which hit the house next door, was so heavily damaged that emergency management personnel ordered it torn down. No one was allowed to enter that home.
That was also the same situation with the Second Street home, which had been damaged by Super Storm Sandy, according to Jerome Larson Jr., president of Jerome Homes, LLC, the Atlantic Highlands contractor working on the renovation and elevation project.
The 1,411 square-foot home, built in 1943, was owned by Walter Shippee, according to the state’s tax records.
Shippee moved into the home just weeks prior to Sandy last October. The home was severely damaged with 4 feet of flooding that ruined the first floor, Larson said.
“It was undergoing a major renovation and elevation,” with the interior completely gutted, Larson said.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything we can pinpoint at this point” as a cause for the collapse at this time, Hill said.
“We’re stilling trying to figure out what happened,” Larson said. “We do know there were high gusty winds” that evening.
“We’re studying the weather reports” to determine if the winds were a factor in what happened, he said.
The house had been sitting on lally columns, which are 4-inch steel columns filled with cement. There were 16 of them – 12 around the building’s perimeter and four in the middle – which is usually more than enough anchoring for a structure of this size, Larson said.
The columns are permanent and would remain as workers constructed the foundation, a job that was scheduled to be done this week, Larson said.
The borough’s construction official, Paul Vitale, has been in discussions with the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Luebner said. DCA is responsible for determining if the contractor followed proper protocol on such a project.
Larson said he will be talking to DCA representatives, borough officials and professionals to determine what happened to prevent it from reoccurring for the sake of homeowners and the safety of his workers and himself.
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