DETROIT (WJBK) - Two months ago, the City of Detroit said it was tearing down 150 homes a week. Today, it's much lower: 39. Why the change? We're still trying to get that answer.
Charlie LeDuff wasn't looking for a Detroit demolition story this time. Actually, he was doing a sweet holiday story. The story was shot, he and The Americans crew stopped for a cup of coffee and fate intervened.
At that same coffee shop was Deputy Director of the Detroit Building Authority Jim Wright. He's been ducking, dodging, and ignoring Charlie's calls for weeks now but he didn't really have anywhere to go when they met face-to-face.
Charlie was insistent. He wanted to know about the dirt that taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars for. Mayor Mike Duggan said the prices for the dirt skyrocketed because of the price to truck it all in.
"Trucking prices went up because we're demanding prompt service of clean fill," Duggan said a few weeks back. He also said different variations of it in other interviews as well in October and November.
Craig Fahle with Detroit Land Back Authority said that enough of the clean soil didn't exist within the city of Detroit. But there's more.
Last year, three preferred companies agreed to a contract with the city to tear down homes for a fixed price. A few weeks later, those same contractors complained they weren't being paid enough so the mayor decided the city would pay for the dirt and the cost of trucking it in to the city.
But get this: Detroit had free dirt. 50,000 tons of free dirt, to be exact, and it was given to those same contractors to fill holes where homes use to be.The contractors turned around and charged the city tens of thousands of dollars to move it.
So we wanted to see the records on the dirt. The city refuses to release them unelss we pay thousands of dollars.
Here's what we do know: in one case, the city was charged nearly $3,000 to haul the dirt less than three miles. What's the deal? Charlie asked Wright about that.
"You don't know. They had to load it with their own equipment. They had to transport equipment there. Load it. And then transport it to some place in the city. It's a lot more than three miles," Wright said.
Then Charlie hit the jackpot. Wright got onto an elevator as Carrie Lewand, the Land Bank Director, and Craige Fahle were stepping off. Combined, the trio make $465,000 a year in salaries. Surely, one of them can give some straight answers, right?
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE as Charlie gets thrown out of a public elevator and escorted out as he tried to his questions answered. Plus, the city finally responds to his questions about the dirt and why they were charged as much as they were.