Mendenhall Auction employees solicit bids for War Memorial Auditorium items in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 10, 2014.

GREENSBORO — The city faces a $3,250 fine for improper handling of asbestos leading up to the demolition of War Memorial Auditorium.

Work toward demolition was stopped in October when it was revealed that city employees and contractors may have been exposed to asbestos before cleanup had begun.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause cancer and lung disease.

An employee complaint on Oct. 10 prompted an investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On Friday, City Manager Jim Westmoreland wrote to members of City Council to say the investigation resulted in a citation and penalty, but the city will meet with OSHA and may appeal through an administrative hearing.

The city last faced an OSHA fine in August 2012, according to city records. That fine, related to a garbage truck fire in which a city employee was injured, was for $2,150.

The citation was issued for not having appropriate signs and boundaries separating the contaminated area from the rest of the workplace at War Memorial. The city maintains that the contamination was the result of a “miscommunication” with contractors.

Built in 1959, the auditorium was closed in September to be replaced by the planned downtown performing arts center.

At the time, coliseum officials hoped to have it torn down and the land paved for 300 premium parking spaces by March in time for the men’s and women’s ACC basketball tournaments.

Much of the contents, including scrap metal, was sold at auction in September.

When a scrap company removed items, it disturbed some asbestos that insulated copper piping, city officials say. Workers continued to work in the area because of a miscommunication, city officials say, which may have endangered them.

War Memorial Auditorium likely won’t be razed until spring, after the city removes the asbestos and solicits bids for the building’s demolition.

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Contact Joe Killian at (336) 373-7023, and follow @JoeKillianNR on Twitter.

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