County moves toward emergency demolition of Otto Masonic Temple

The former Otto Masonic temple Building, a three-story brick structure, has been declared unsafe and county lawmakers are seeking its emergency demolition.

LITTLE VALLEY — The Cattaraugus County Legislature’s Public Works Committee recommended the emergency demolition of an unsafe three-story brick building off County Road 12 in Otto.

The building houses the former Clinton Paige Lodge No. 620, but has not been occupied in several years. It is without heat and there is considerable water damage, according to Public Works Engineering Director Mark Burr.

“The building is much worse than we first related to the committee as far as safety,” Burr told the committee Wednesday.

“Every time we inspect it, we find more things that are not structurally sound,” Burr said. “We feel the prudent thing to do is to demolish it quickly.”

County Attorney Thomas Brady will notify the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that due to safety issues, the building will be demolished shortly unless the agency objects.

The Masonic organization, which hasn’t owned the building in many years, has agreed the building doesn’t have historic value as it stands, Burr said. Some items could be salvaged before demolition, he said. The building does not contain asbestos.

“We have a demolition permit from the Department of State,” Burr said.

The building, which is in a residential area, was owned by two former Masons for several years, but they had difficulty maintaining it. The Town of Otto took possession of it at one point and had sought bids for its demolition.

Burr said he was initially unaware the property had been transferred from the town to private ownership and was about to be foreclosed upon for back taxes.

County Legislature Minority Leader Susan Labuhn, D-Salamanca, suggested the county should not have foreclosed on the building and asked County Treasurer Joseph Keller why he included the structure on the foreclosure list.

“Now we’ve foreclosed, putting the county at a huge liability,” Labuhn told the Public Works Committee.

“I’m not happy this building got foreclosed,” Burr said. “We were working with the town on its demolition.” The low bid received by the town for the demolition was around $69,000.

The full County Legislature will be asked to give Legislature Chairman James J. Snyder authorization to contract for the emergency demolition of the Masonic Lodge.

Public Works Committee member Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua, asked whether a list of projects eligible for surplus funding next year had been selected by Public Works officials.

Burr said a list is being discussed. What is on the list may depend on what is in the 2020 capital project list, Burr said.

Snyder said two projects he’d like to see expedited are Five Mile Road south of Route 16 in the town of Humphrey and West River Road between Olean and Allegany. Burr said the two roads are currently on the 2021 project list.

Public Works Committee Chairman Vergilio “Dick” Giardini, D-Allegany, said he was very interested in the West River Road project and would like to see it on an expedited list.

“It’s a funding issue,” Burr said.

County Administrator Jack Searles said specific roads could be discussed after the end of the year.

Burr said Public Works crews are trying to get a head start this fall on culvert work on roads due to be paved next year.

“Can we begin a list earlier?” Snyder asked. “We’ve come a long way.”

“The roads are still bad,” Giardini replied.

Legislator Barbara Hastings, D-Allegany, said she’s gotten about 20 complaints in the last few weeks about the poor condition of the West River Road.

“Bakerstand Road is worse,” shot back Legislator Robert Breton, R-Franklinville.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)