Demolition of sections of the former Morgan Insulation property, which is currently owned by the Town of Erwin, is making way for industrial development. Demolition is scheduled to continue this week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

By Brad Hicks

Some preparation was needed before the Town of Erwin utilizes previously-received Tennessee Valley Authority InvestPrep funding to ready the former Morgan Insulation site for industrial development.

A significant portion of the town-owned site has been demolished, with more demolition work to come over the next week or so.

According to Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff, the recent demolition has been completed by individuals and businesses who won stakes of the Morgan Insulation property through GovDeals.com, a website that allows governments to auction off items such as surplus equipment, police cars and buildings to private bidders.

Rosenoff said before “kickstarting” the InvestPrep grant process, town officials used the GovDeals website to auction off different parts of the Morgan Insulation building as well as equipment contained within.

The town placed around 20 separate items related to the Morgan Insulation site on GovDeals, and these items were awarded to approximately 10 high-bidders, Rosenoff said, meaning multiple bidders won different components of the property through the auctions.

“You had everything from a guard shack to the modular office to equipment to a rear building to the main building,” Rosenoff said, describing of some of the items put up for auction.

Although the town was not required to interview the winning bidders to determine how they intended to use the components of the property they won, Rosenoff said he understands some will continue to tear down their portions of the site to sell as scrap. Others will salvage equipment from their share of the property, and others intend to repurpose their portions, according to Rosenoff.

“I believe the rear building, which was 15,000 square feet, was a separate high-bidder,” Rosenoff said. “The goal was to remove the 15,000-square-foot part of the building and repurpose it somewhere else.”

The ongoing demolition is expected to be complete by the first or second week of September, Rosenoff said. The bid process for the portion of the site demolition to be covered by the TVA InvestPrep grant will begin soon afterwards.

“Everything worked out very well, the timing and the coordination, so that the GovDeals part of the project has worked out very well,” Rosenoff said.

Through the InvestPrep portion of the demolition project, anything left standing on the former Morgan Insulation site following the work of the GovDeals winners would be removed, including concrete slabs and the silos that tower above Second Street and Main Avenue.

The town closed on the purchase of the Morgan Insulation site in October 2013, using a $375,000 loan from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and chipping in $75,000 of its own money to purchase the $450,000 property.

Erwin received the TVA InvestPrep grant last year to demolish the Morgan Insulation property in order to prepare the approximately 15-acre site for industrial development. The town was awarded approximately $350,000 through the competitive grant program. A 30 percent match is required from the town, meaning the TVA would cover 70 percent, or around $250,000, of the work, while the town would be responsible for the remainder.

Rosenoff said the demolition being completed by the GovDeals auction winners will not only aid the InvestPrep process by clearing the site, but it will help the town meet the necessary grant match since the winning bidders paid the town to remove portions of the Morgan Insulation property.

“We’re hoping that this will help with the match for the grant but also that, hopefully, when the bids come in, we’re able to do everything we want to do including the silos,” Rosenoff said. 

The project timelines following the solicitation of bids for the InvestPrep demolition will need to be determined by the engineering firm previously hired by the town to complete civil design and geotechnical work on the grant-funded undertaking. Rosenoff said he envisions a scenario in which the winning contractor is onsite 30 to 45 days after the project is put out to bid. From there, the demolition could take 120 to 150 days, Rosenoff said.

“But all those have not been ironed out completely until the engineer comes up with the complete bid document and then it actually goes out to bid,” Rosenoff said of the projected timeframes.

Until then, town officials hope the GovDeals part of the project continues to move along to allow for a smoother transition into the InvestPrep-funded demolition.

“This is actually going very well, very systematic, very well-organized,” Rosenoff said, “so I think the nice thing is when it goes to bid the bid itself, the package, will include everything that is there including the silos with the ultimate goal that it’s a 15-acre, grassed, site-ready industrial prospect property.”