HORNELL — It begs to be a busy summer for the city of Hornell. A continuous workflow of infrastructure work and a laundry list of new demands was outlined by Mayor Shawn D. Hogan at Monday's Common Council Meeting.
One unexpected demand on the city's time and resources will be a death investigation related to a tragic gas station canopy collapse on Canisteo Street that killed Erion Clark, 58, of Alfred Station during violent storms on June 5.
Hogan updated Council members with new details of the incident.
Despite previous reports to the contrary, the Hornell Police Department did begin a "full-blown" investigation into the tragedy, according to the mayor. Because of the loss of life, a police investigation was mandatory.
According to authorities, the weight of water collecting on the top of the canopy caused the structure to topple. The water was apparently not draining properly.
According to Hogan, police now have in their possession the rusted steel support beams that failed. Hornell authorities are waiting for a professional assessment of the material. Hornell police are also working in cooperation with the Steuben County District Attorney's Office.
Previously, Hogan said the city had not been made aware of any problems with the 7-Eleven site. Upon review of city records, he discovered that the business had been brought to the attention of the codes office about a year ago.
"We did have one individual last summer who came to our codes office and indicated that he thought the metal was rusting there," he said.
"We took the report down to the 7-Eleven and informed the manager that they should take a look at it, and he went (and) turned it into the maintenance department and the maintenance department responded," Hogan recalled. "That was the extent of our involvement."
Insisting that the city had done its due diligence on the issue, Hogan said, "We went to the people who were supposed to make it good. Apparently they did some repair to it, but we don't know to what extent."
During the course of the city's information gathering they found that there is no regulatory agency responsible for checking the structural integrity of gas station canopies.
"There is no set design for canopies, some have two posts, some have four and some have one," Hogan said. "They do inspect them for the fire prevention systems, that's a DOT job, but nobody checks them for structural integrity."
In his research of the issue, Hogan came to the conclusion that the business owner is responsible for the maintenance.
Getting to the bottom of why the structure collapsed the way it did however, is going to take time and a professional opinion.
"You need some experience to check for structural integrity. You have to have some type of engineering background and there is a specific process you have to go by," Hogan said.
Looking deeper into the issue, he was shocked to see the number of instances of collapses like the one on Canisteo Street was so high.
"In places with instances of high wind storms you always see, the first thing that goes down are those canopies," he said.
In light of the lack of statutory accountability for gas pump canopies, the mayor would like to do away with them.
"There is a movement afoot in the legislature to outlaw those canopies, and we got online to do that.
"It was a horrible thing, and we're on top of it," he assured the council.