Developer sues over AIR building demolition

NEW CUMBERLAND — A Weirton developer is suing a Pennsylvania contractor over its alleged failure to complete the demolition of the old AIR building.

Ronald J. Cross filed suit in Hancock County Circuit Court against Ralph Unis, Joan Unis and Unis Demolition, of Aliquippa, Pa., alleging breach of contract and fraud.

Cross hired Unis in early 2015 to demolish the AIR building and conduct asbestos abatement on the South Chester Street site. He obtained a demolition permit from the city of New Cumberland in January 2015.

Instead, Unis removed “valuable” scrap metal from the site and failed to complete the contracted work, the lawsuit said.

State health officials ordered a halt to the demolition in April 2015 when asbestos was found in the roof. At the same time, the state Department of Environmental Protection found Unis in violation of state emission standards for hazardous air pollutants.

Specifically, the DEP’s Division of Air Quality said Unis failed to inspect the facility for asbestos prior to demolition; provide a 10-day written notice of demolition; remove asbestos-containing material prior to demolition; and have a certified supervisor on site during the stripping or removal process.

After months of delay, Cross hired American Contracting Enterprises, of McKees Rocks, Pa., early this year to handle the abatement part of the project, and one of the state’s cease-and-desist orders was lifted. A second cease-and-desist order was lifted last week after the asbestos removal passed state inspection.

As a result of Unis’ alleged breach of contract, Cross incurred $21,400 in expenses for partial remediation, lost the use of the premises and business opportunities, and was subjected to adverse media attention, the lawsuit said.

“Local and state authorities were objecting to the uncompleted status of the demolition job site,” the suit said. “Plaintiff, thus, suffered damage to his personal, professional and business reputation.”

The lawsuit also accuses Unis of a fraudulent scheme that resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of dollars worth of scrap and metals, including I-beams, plates and structural steel, heavy industrial motors, copper, aluminum, tin, brass, copper wire, copper pipes, motor windings, tin sheets and other non-ferrous materials.

Cross, represented by Weirton attorney Michael E. Nogay, is asking for compensatory and punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge David J. Sims.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)


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