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Jared Balvin, of Ironman Construction in Tyndall, stands inside the former Longhorn Bar in Mitchell Tuesday morning, as he shows the bracing structure his construction crew put up to help during the demolition of the building. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)

Problems delay Longhorn demolition

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Though it may seem like there is no progress in demolishing the former Longhorn Bar in Mitchell, the contractor says he has been busy inside with prep work.

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Jared Balvin, owner of Ironman Construction in Tyndall, said preparations to demolish the 134-year-old building, believed to be the oldest structure in Mitchell, have taken some extra time because of some unforeseen issues. Balvin won the bid in January to demolish the former Longhorn and the connected brick building to its rear.

The corner of First Avenue and Main Street has been closed to traffic since April 5. Inside the building, a common wall between the VFW and former Longhorn is requiring more prep work than expected.

Balvin and his workers have constructed a bracing structure of 2-by-6s that runs the entire length of the former bar.

"The cross bracing will support the load bearing walls," he said. "We've been stabilizing the building."

"See how it's bowing out right now?" he said Tuesday of the outer wall facing First Avenue. "That's dangerous, and we really want to protect the public and not take any chances."

Balvin said he's heard complaints about the inconvenience of having the intersection blocked, but he wants the public to know it is blocked off for safety. He and workers have had to evacuate the building several times during preparation because of falling rubble. He doesn't want pedestrians or motorists to get hurt.

"What if a busload of kids was stopped out there and the wall collapsed on them?" he said. "I'd rather be safe than live with knowing someone died."

The next step is to place support under I-beams on the VFW's side of the common wall. Balvin has cut three holes in the floor of the VFW below the I-beams where he will create concrete slabs with 9-by-10.75-foot box columns to support the beams. He aims to prevent the second floor of the VFW building from collapsing when the bar building is demolished, or if there is a partial collapse of the common wall.

He estimates the concrete and columns will be placed starting Saturday. To do this portion of the project, Balvin submitted a change order to the city for $33,000, said Mayor Ken Tracy, which would make the total cost of the project $142,559.

When he cut the holes, Balvin found three separate pipes -- lead, steel and clay-tile sewer. The lead and steel pipes were no longer in use and were removed. But Balvin had to bring in a plumber when he found the clay-tile line was still hooked up to a bathroom sink. That sink is now rerouted to another line and the clay tile was removed.

"It's taken some time and we've had some snow days in there, but I think we'll finish on time," Balvin said.

Tim McGannon, Mitchell public works director, said Balvin's contract with the city states the demolition must be done by May 15, which is only two weeks away.

"He's trying to protect the VFW because they share a wall," McGannon said. "That makes demolition difficult."

Prior to demolition, Balvin plans to bury the sidewalk outside the Longhorn building in several inches of sand to soften any blows from falling rubble. He will also protect the VFW roof with hay bales to prevent bricks from the rear structure from falling through.

He has already built protective wooden structures around the decorative light pole bases on the sidewalk and around an electrical box.

He doesn't have an exact timeline for when outer demolition may begin, but said it will happen soon.

The overall plan is to first take out the exterior wall that faces First Avenue by removing joists, or horizontal support beams, from the roof to relieve pressure from the common wall. Demolition will use a combination of manual labor and machinery. Balvin said he will have an excavator on hand to tear down the building, but will likely use chainsaws to sever the joists and sledgehammers to take out other walls.

The bracing structure will remain to relieve any pressure from the common wall with the VFW, preventing its collapse.

Next he will remove brick from the exterior of the rear building, which is connected to the white portion of the former Longhorn.

After that wall is down, he will demo the second floor from east to west and then remove the bracing structure from the first floor, leaving about 4 feet connected to the common wall. Once the bar building is cleared, he will remove the joists from the common wall.

Balvin has been in communication with the VFW.

"Our first concern is that everything is done to ensure that the common wall is maintained during demolition," said Pat Ziegler, VFW post commander, in an email to The Daily Republic. "Not being an engineer, it does appear that the contractor is going to great measures to see that this is the case."

Ziegler also is concerned, once the building is down, about the exposed wall. He is worried the city will do nothing and expect the VFW to foot the expense of fixing it.

"I want to believe that they won't, but I have heard that this is a possibility," Ziegler said.

Tracy said the city will likely assume some responsibility for the wall, but will discuss whether the VFW can chip in to help restore it.

As for the lot, the city will also likely maintain that until any final decisions are made for parking, green space or future business ventures on it, Tracy said.

Barricades have blocked off the sidewalk around the former Longhorn building since an inner wall collapsed in November 2011. The business moved across the street after the collapse.

Balvin bid $109,559 for the job in January, which was $114,000 less than another company's bid. The final cost with a $33,000 change order is still below the other contractor's bid by about $80,000.

Balvin, 24, has impressed the VFW and the city with his professionalism.

Ziegler said Balvin has been easy to work with and good about keeping the VFW updated on what's happening.

Tracy said the city made a good choice.

"He is going above and beyond what I would have thought had been necessary to ensure the common wall is stabilized and not affected by the demolition," Tracy said. "I'm very pleased with his meticulous work to stabilize it."

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