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Steering clear of asbestos issue

PLYMOUTH -- Asbestos removal, a common challenge encountered in rehabilitating old buildings, proved a problem in Craffey and Co.'s renovation of the Buttner building.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Joe Ferson said the agency discovered an asbestos violation during a routine inspection of the site. Part of a dismantled heating system in the building had exposed the hazardous substance, he said.

Ferson said Kevin Craffey, the company's CEO, explained last fall that the violation occurred when crews were working on a part of the building's lower level where plans showed, incorrectly, that no asbestos was present. Ferson said Craffey signed a consent order on Dec. 13 promising to complete the asbestos cleanup according to department regulations. The company has paid a $32,430 penalty because of the violation, he said.

Craffey said last fall that the building was now free of contamination, according to tests conducted by the state's industrial hygienist.

Plymouth Center Steering Committee member Susan Melchin had urged her panel last month to ask Craffey whether the building was certified by the Department of Environmental Protection as being free of asbestos.

''A year ago [Craffey] made a grand presentation" to local merchants, Melchin said. ''Two weeks later, he went to jail. How is he going to regain his credibility with us?"

Craffey was sentenced to 60 days in jail last year following problems with asbestos removal at a New Hampshire hotel. New Hampshire authorities said workers removed and buried asbestos on Craffey's Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa property in Whitefield illegally.

Craffey said later that he pleaded guilty to two counts of removing and disposing of asbestos without a permit because he accepted responsibility for the actions of his company's employees.

The steering committee agreed to question Craffey on the asbestos issue in a letter, if town officials decided that the query was consistent with the panel's role. The committee did not send the letter after it was told the matter was beyond its role as an advisory body, said Bobbi Clark, the committee's chairwoman.

ROBERT KNOX

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