Demolition contractor Middleton Carouthers, said Monday in Maplewood Municipal Court, that he’s not responsible for finishing the MRH Family Dentistry demolition job.
He pleaded not guilty and will return to court for a trial on August 20.
Donna Clifford owns the property, and it was her house that burned in January. She hired Carouthers to demolition the house in April. She has a buyer who wants to build a house there but the lot has been untouched since Carouthers left it in April.
According to Maplewood and St. Louis county Carouthers left the foundation walls intact, and filled the basement with debris from the demolition. The entire house including the foundation walls was to be removed as asbestos abatement.
Before facing Judge Brian Dunlop, Carouthers blamed the asbestos abatement contractor.
“I got a good defense,” he said. “It was the asbestos contractor that illegally backfilled that job without an inspection. That’s what St. Louis County said."
In court, Judge Dunlop disagreed. “You can get it done,” he told Carouthers with a strong emphasis on “you.”
He told Carouthers to hire a licensed hauler and excavator and do the job.
“You can’t do it yourself, but the job can be done,” Dunlop said. “It’s going to be very expensive. That’s your responsibility, not the property owner’s.”
After court, Carouthers said he has the law and the contract on his side and he’s sticking with it.
“I got my contract right here,” he said. “It all has to do with the wording in the thing. It says structure; well that’s a substructure. It’s not the structure.”
Maplewood Building Inspector Neil Fick, there for the city, said he’d talk with Public Works Director Anthony Traxler on Tuesday about what to do next.
He said it’s a possibility the city will find the property a “nuisance” and do the cleanup, and another possibility is that the owner will pay for it and take Carouthers to court to recover the costs.
Another is that Carouthers will finish the job, but Carouthers said he hopes Clifford gets some bids and finishes the job. "That would get me maybe off the hook," he said. "Then they'd fine me and I’ll eat the fine. They can hit me up to a grand."
Fick said he thought Carouthers would have been fined. “I thought that was going to be it, and every week after that we’d issue another violation, but now it’s going to trial, which I didn’t expect that.”
See related in Patch:
- Owner of MRH Family Dentistry Home Moves Ahead–Expensively
- Burned MRH Family Dentistry Scheduled for Demolition This Week
- MRH Family Dentistry's Last Day is Here: Demolition Set For 6 A.M. Wednesday
- Home of Donna Clifford, MRH Family Dentistry Knocked Down, Hauled Away
- Owner of Destroyed MRH Family Dentistry Donates to Ryan Hummert Memorial Fund
- After Fire, Family Mourns Lost Treasures, History
- Firefighters Subdue Blaze at 1904 House, Home of Dentistry
- Hours After Fire Begins, Maplewood Crews Still Fight