City of Washington owes Allegheny Crane Rental $1.15 m after downtown building collapse

The president of Allegheny Crane Rental of Pittsburgh, who assisted first responders at the scene of a building collapse in downtown Washington in July, demanded payment from the city during a public meeting Thursday.

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“All of us put our lives at risk,” Kyrk Pyros said. “We had a great, successful outcome in a horrible situation. We’re honest, hard-working people, and we need to get paid.”

Pyros, who threatened the city with a lawsuit during the council meeting Thursday, said his dealings with the city began July 12, when the three-story apartment building at 15 N. Main St. collapsed, trapping people inside. The city got court permission to begin emergency demolition the day of the collapse and hired Allegheny Crane to do the work.

According to Pyros’ attorney, Kelton Burgess, the city owes his client $1.15 million dollars, which includes interest to date.

“I want to know how we get paid,” Pyros told city council members Thursday.

Collapsed building owners dispute city's claim on demo costs

The owners of a building that partially collapsed over the summer are disputing the more than $1.1 million bill the city claims it’s entitled to recoup for tearing down the structure.

City solicitor Michael Hammond said the city is waiting on court proceedings involving the building’s owners, Mark Russo of Washington and his sister, Melissa, who lives in Colorado, and their insurance company. Hammond said the city wants to use the insurance money it expects to receive from the Russos to pay Allegheny Crane.

“We’re at the mercy of the court,” Hammond said.

“We’d like to pay him with that money. We don’t have the funds to pay him now, short of going into debt.”

Burgess, addressing city officials, said that if the city doesn’t pay his client, it could be facing a lawsuit based on the Prompt Payment Act, which ensures that municipalities make timely payments.

“Contractual obligations of this city need to be honored in a timely manner,” he said. “This council is inviting a lawsuit. Do the right thing – find the money.”

Burgess said his client has “bent over backward” to avoid a lawsuit with the city, offering to negotiate a “good-faith” payment. He said litigation will be the “last resort.”

“Ultimately, we want to preserve our relationship with the city,” he said.

Pyros told council his contract is with the city and he “has no standing with the Russos.” He said while he wants to avoid a lawsuit with the city, he needs the money to provide for his employees and their families.

 “That’s the position we’ve been put in,” he said. “They’re making me be the person I don’t want to be.”

Hammond called Pyros’ public statements “cheap theatrics,” saying the city has been in communication with Pyros every day. He said the money isn’t being withheld in bad faith, but the court dealings with the Russos have slowed things down.

“We will continue to pursue every avenue to get everybody paid as quickly as we can,” he told Pyros. “We have been and will continue to work with you.”

Hammond also said while the $1.15 million is not necessarily outside the bounds of the city’s contract with Allegheny Crane, it could “still be excessive and too high for the services that were provided.”

The Russos’ attorneys, Christian Marquis and Allison Genard, also called the bill “unreasonable, high and not customary or within industry standards given the amount of work performed,” in an “affidavit of defenses” filed in county court last week.

In that filing, the Russos’ attorneys asked the court to “reduce, remove or exclude some or all of the costs or charges” the city had previously claimed the Russos owe it for the demolition.