A Hammond contractor is arguing with the city government over payment after he accidentally demolished the wrong house.
The contractor, Jamal Mosely, says there was confusion over which of two structures on the same property needed to be torn down. But the city claims their instructions were perfectly clear and officials don’t owe the business any compensation for the demolition.
Some city council members say the incident highlights the need to streamline the city's bidding and demolition process, which they were already working to improve.
The lot at 2413 Center Avenue in Hammond had a brown house and a blue house on site, both vacant and dilapidated. The demolition order was supposed to be for the blue house, but Mosley demolished the brown house.
Code enforcement officer Bobby Mitchell said the contractor’s demolition documents made clear it was the blue house that was to be torn down. The documents from October of 2019 show photographs of the blue house.
But Mosely said that, when he entered the address into the GPS, it took him to the brown house. And he said the brown house was the one with the address number on it.
When he found out that was the wrong house, he then went back to demolish the blue house too. He is now seeking compensation for the work it took to remove both houses.
“There was a big mix-up with the addresses and the information given to me and afterwards I was told something different so now I’m stuck with the financing of demolishing a house for free, basically,” Mosely said.
Hammond councilwoman Carlee White Gonzales said the incident speaks to an issue the council has been trying to address for the last year. Some have complained that the bidding and contractor process for demolitions can be confusing.
“I think previously there were a lot of complaints on the scope of work, which included debris being taken off site or whether removing the slab is included (in the bid) so it wasn’t consistent,” she said. “One of the things was to make sure our bids were correct and thorough.”
The city’s administration and code enforcement team is now working on a set of standards that includes a pre-demolition checklist and meeting with the selected contractor to determine the scope of the project and ensure everyone’s on the same page — including about which structures are to be removed.
Mosely, who says he’s long worked with the city as a demolition contractor, said he’s never had this kind of miscommunication before, even in instances with multiple structures at the same address. He said he’s now at a loss of several thousand dollars for the additional demolition work on the wrong home.
“They (the city) do things that in my opinion aren’t right, it’s an issue that has to be dealt with and hopefully we can resolve this,” he said.
At a meeting last week, Mitchell told the city council that he thinks Mosley received a call from a competing business that intentionally told him to tear down the wrong house.
“That was actually his fault for listening to his competitor… if there was a discrepancy, the time to ask that was before demolition,” Mitchell said.
The owners of the brown house – the one mistakenly torn down – were planning to demolish the home at some point anyway, according to both Mosely and Mitchell. Mitchell suggested at a city council meeting this week that Mosely approach those owners directly for compensation for the work he did as they were intending to hire a contractor for that same work anyway.
However, Mosely said Friday he still plans to move forward in seeking money from the city for the work.