At 10:43 a.m. one year ago Thursday, an under-demolition building collapsed onto the neighboring Salvation Army Thrift Store at 22nd and Market streets. Six were killed and 14 were injured.
In the aftermath, City Council and Mayor Michael Nutter called for changes to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections. A grand jury investigation began and a blue ribbon committee was formed. The City Controller's Office as well as the Inspector General also offered input.
Popular demands included changes to applications to attain permits for demolition and the need for a thorough review, which includes inspection of a contractor's experience, site-safety plan and determining a schedule for progress and inspection. L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said the changes have been made, as well as others. Williams said he restructured the department and replaced one deputy, while another deputy resigned and a third retired.
Williams said he felt the new team he put together and the changes he implemented would improve oversight of the department's licensing and permit inspection process and hoped they would help to "tighten the reigns" on the work being done in the city.
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Led by City Treasurer Nancy Winkler, who lost her daughter Anne Bryan in the collapse, called for the blue ribbon committee to study L&I and issue its recommendations for improvements. The study, which was given an extension, is due in the fall.
So the restructuring, announced in May, raises the question of why Williams wouldn't wait for the report.
"Any changes that have taken place have been done internally either by my direction or internally by the department's leadership," he said.
What if the committee's recommendations clash with his vision?
"I think it's important to look at each recommendation," he said. "And to see if this is best practice used in other jurisdictions … and I think that is an indicator of whether or not the recommendation will be a success or not. But when they become available, I will certainly look at each one … to make sure that it makes sense for our city."
Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represents several victims' families and survivors who filed lawsuits in the collapse, said the most important issue regarding the restructuring of L&I was the property owners and contractors inability to prepare a written demolition safety survey.
"The new city regulations require the submission of such a written survey when you apply for your permit, and that's a positive step," he said. "However, the city. … allows demolition contractors that they hire for buildings of one or two stories not to have to file that written demolition safety survey, and I think they are not following their own rules."
Including the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Winkler family, there are 10 other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of survivors and victims of last June’s deadly building collapse that killed six and injured 14. Two of those lawsuits were also wrongful death suits.
Mongeluzzi said the lawsuits are progressing in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Lawsuits generally run about two years in length, he said.
Trials are expected to commence in late summer or early fall next year.
By the numbers
The entire L&I budget this year.
The city's demolition budget for this year, which is a $3 million increase from the year before.
Park's first tree planted
To mark the one-year anniversary of the building collapse, families of the six killed and 14 injured will join those hoping to memorialize those victims at the collapse site at 10 a.m. Thursday.
In a display of solidarity, the families and the volunteers will remember the victims as well as trumpet the planned memorial.
The Salvation Army has donated the land where the store stood to the city, and volunteers are raising private funds to build a 22nd and Market Memorial Park.
The ceremony will conclude with the planting of the park’s first tree.
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