EDGEWATER — The contractor hired to remove years worth of asbestos from the abandoned Edgewater Medical Center said his company halted work after not being compensated by developers.
"We stopped work because we were not paid," Daniel Suchta, owner of DDS Environmental, told DNAinfo.
Suchta's comments are at odds with those of the local alderman and lead developer, MCZ Development, who told residents at a meeting this month that work stopped in April because electrical work needed to be completed before demolition could continue.
The medical campus at 5700 N. Ashland Ave. is slated to become 141 apartments, 78 parking spaces, single-family homes and a park operated by the Chicago Park District.
In February, the firm Ground Crew secured permits to begin demolition of four of six buildings that remain on the site. DDS Environmental, of west suburban Roselle, was contracted by Ground Crew to remove asbestos from all of the long-shuttered buildings.
Between Feb. 10 and April 4, DDS Environmental removed nearly 3,000 bags of asbestos drywall, floor tiles and roofing supplies, according to waste manifest receipts provided by Suchta.
The remediation was done mainly on the buildings in the 1600 block of West Edgewater Avenue, as well as some work at 1628 W. Hollywood Ave. and 5700 N. Ashland Ave.
But as work was being completed, payments started being delayed, Suchta said. A payment that was supposed to be made March 1 didn't go through until May, he said.
In April, Suchta said his company stopped working at the site. Ground Crew also stopped because it had "not been paid either. So that's why they stopped working, not because MCZ told them to stop," Suchta said.
Ground Crew did not respond to a request for comment.
MCZ officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But in July, MCZ said it had stopped the demolition in order to make sure it had full approval from the city and environmental consultants on the remediation plan, according to a post on 40th Ward Ald. Pat O'Connor's website.
O'Connor and Todd Mullen, of MCZ, told residents at a meeting this month that reports that contractors weren't being paid were simply "social media" rumors.
"It has come to my attention that some of the employees of the demolition contractor have claimed to be leaving the site because of lack of payment. That is not the case," O'Connor also said on his website.
(Story continues below)Todd Mullen of MCZ Developments updated residents earlier this month about demolition delays and what they can expect going forward. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Emails show payment dispute
But emails from June provided by Suchta show MCZ indeed acknowledged that payments had been delayed.
In one email dated June 22 with the subject line, "Past Due Payments," Ground Crew Project Manager Jim Allen asked Mullen to "please tell me exactly what it is that I need to do to get payment for the work that we have completed to this point on the Edgewater Hospital demo."
Allen said it was "never agreed that we would finance the job and I do not believe that we should be."
"Going forward I will have no choice but to retroactively add interest to the past due payments," Allen wrote. "I truly would like to keep a good working relationship going forward but this is getting totally out of hand."
In response, Mullen said he "appreciated the patience" and that "I think I am getting money for you by Monday," June 26.
But on June 27, Mullen told Suchta in another email exchange that he was still "trying to get some money to Ground Crew."
He said the financial issues would be cleared up in the next 30 days.
Suchta said this week that he has not been paid. He says he's owed more than $300,000 for work he's completed.
Chenin Kienzler, an aide to O'Connor, said the developer had assured the alderman's office that financial problems were not behind any delays.
"Those aren't things that I've seen, so I can't really" speak to the emails regarding the payment issues, she said. "I know there's been accusations of nonpayment that have been rumored before. We were always assured that that was not the case."
She said on Thursday she spoke with MCZ and was told by developers that "it's being worked out."
Asbestos still on site
Meanwhile, Suchta said asbestos remediation at the property isn't close to being finished.
"We still have about two weeks worth of work on Hollywood buildings and much more on Ashland," he said.
A new timeline for removing the hazardous substance hasn't been announced. In April, Mullen told residents asbestos abatement was supposed to be finished in the "next several weeks."
But in the July update posted on O'Connor's website and at the community meeting earlier this month, Mullen and his team did not mention asbestos abatement as being one of the remaining steps to be done before demolition could be finished. Instead they highlighted contractors who were going to work on "remaining non-asbestos remediation items" and the need to remove electrical parts like thermostats and outlets.
Kienzler insisted MCZ was being "transparent" about its plans and that all asbestos would be removed before the remaining buildings came down.
O'Connor's office plans to post a detailed timeline of future plans online soon, Kienzler said.
Officials have said the demolition should be finished by the end of the year.