QUEENSBURY -- Town officials are looking into whether the town should fund the cleanup of a car repair business that burned 19 months ago, then foreclose on the land and sell it to recoup the town’s costs.
The charred remnants of Ridge Road Car Care remain much as they have been since the July 31, 2013, blaze that destroyed the business and damaged or destroyed 14 vehicles. Police have labeled the fire suspicious, but no arrests have been made.
Last August, the town sued the owners and former operators, Andrew Ratto and Katherine Ratto. That lawsuit is pending. It seeks to have the property cleaned up and threatens fines of up to $950 a day for environmental issues that stem from oil products on the property.
Supervisor John Strough said the town is looking into what it can do to compel a cleanup.
“One of the options we are looking at is to clean it up and sell it,” he said.
The situation is complicated by the belief that asbestos lurks in the building’s remains. The presence of asbestos requires special equipment and precautions during a cleanup.
Claims that there was asbestos on the property, and a refusal to pay by the business’ insurance carrier, apparently killed plans for a cleanup in 2013.
The Department of Labor denied the Rattos’ appeal that questioned the need for an asbestos cleanup, which is significantly more expensive than basic demolition.
Strough said he is optimistic after an initial assessment of the site.
“The asbestos is an issue, but there doesn’t appear to be a great amount of it,” he said.
Town officials are getting estimates for a cleanup, and whether the town will move forward to clean it up on its own will depend on how high the pricetag is, Strough said.
The Rattos could not be reached Thursday. Their listed home phone number was not accepting calls.
Strough said a second property owner is involved in the situation. The man who sold the land to the Rattos, Daniel Imrie II of Glens Falls, has sued the couple to recoup a $140,000 mortgage.
That lawsuit was filed July 17, 2013.
Imrie could not be reached Thursday.
The Rattos have also been sued by Benjamin Aronson, who court records show co-signed a $25,000 bank loan for them in 2012 but had to pay the loan back himself, and by insurance companies on behalf of two people whose vehicles were destroyed by the fire.
The 894 Ridge Road property is assessed at $30,100, with the building’s remains on it. Ratto bought it for $239,700 in 2010, when it was assessed at $186,200, of which $78,100 was for the .86 acres of land itself.