Three varying reports from three structural engineers were discussed at a staff meeting at City Hall on Monday afternoon about the northward-leaning north wall of the Dryer Building in the 900 block of Front Street.

Mayor Tab Townsell said because of the building collapse in Morrilton last week that killed a toddler and injured others seriously, “the city is determined to make a legitimate effort to secure the life and safety of people in the area.”

“We’ll block off the alley and the sidewalk, this time for good,” he said following the meeting that was for staff members only.

Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said something more permanent, such as a chain link fence, will be installed to keep people from inadvertently entering the alley or the sidewalk.

Townsell said he was concerned that two structural engineers reported that the north wall of the Dryer building near the east end of the stairway is leaning northward more than 17 inches.

Continued discussions will center on what might be affected by the leaning wall, Townsell said. Whether only one building is affected or one more — Downtown Pentecostals — or two more, including Crossman Printing.

An opinion in May 2010 from Chris Corbitt, an engineer with Professional Engineering Inspections Services in North Little Rock, said “the building has suffered a major structural failure in the load-bearing masonry walls on both the left and right sides of the building ... . The left (north) masonry wall has lost its structural integrity and is 18 inches out of plumb.”

An inspection by Justin Hall of Hall Engineering conducted in April for a prospective buyer of the Dryer Building reported that the leaning was caused by a sinking bank vault in Crossman Printing, once the site of Conway Bank, that put pressure on the walls of that building, the Downtown Pentecostals building in between and the Dryer Building.

But a report following an inspection on Saturday by Aubrey Harris of Harris Engineering of Little Rock, said, “Based on the visual inspection of the vault and the direction of the bowing and leaning of the walls of the buildings ... the vault is not causing the walls of the Conway Shoe Store (Dryer Building) to lean.”  

After the meeting, Castleberry suggested a ladder truck would provide a rooftop inspection, and structural engineer Hall, the City’s Building Inspector Lynn Hicks, Townsell and firefighter Rick Stapleton took a ride in the bucket to look over the buildings.

Study will continue, Townsell said, with the options being to save the building or safely demolish it.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at becky.harris@thecabin.net or 505-1234.)