WATERLOO, Iowa --- Better-than-expected demolition bids for the former Lafayette Elementary School left city leaders giddy.

Wide grins stretched across City Council members' faces Monday as bids received on the project came in well below the $500,000 estimate to raze the dilapidated building at 2265 Lafayette St.

Kelly Demolition and Excavating of Mount Vernon submitted the apparent low bid of $172,900, and three of the four bids came in below the estimate. Kelly Demolition did extensive work in Waterloo tearing down homes damaged in the 2008 floods.

"Forgive our frivolity," said Mayor Buck Clark. "This was an incredibly important bid for us tonight, and we got some very good bids."

Council members had sold $550,000 in general obligation bonds this fiscal year to knock down blighted buildings throughout the community. But several council members were concerned the Lafayette School project would eat up the entire amount, leaving no money to address other blighted houses which have been generating complaints.

Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said he had been hoping there would be money left after the Lafayette School demolition to tear down several homes the city acquired through court orders, along with the former flea market building at West Sixth and Commercial streets downtown.

The city also hopes to acquire and raze the former Operation Threshold building near the Cedar Valley SportsPlex downtown.

Lafayette Elementary opened in 1912 and was closed by the Waterloo Community School District in 1973. It was sold by the school district to a private buyer for $500 in 1994. Another developer gave the building back to the city in December 2008 when his plan to renovate the structure as apartments was deemed infeasible.

The building is in such dangerous condition that asbestos can't be removed first, so the demolition contractor must handle the material as if it all contained the cancer-causing substance. The structure most be hosed down throughout the process, while trucks hauling debris to the landfill must be wrapped up tight.

While the asbestos issue boosts the demolition costs, the city put a generous time frame on the project --- giving the contractor until next spring to finish --- in hopes the winter demolition window would generate lower bids.

Council members must still approve the demolition contract after the bid documents have been reviewed.

A development company owned by former Mayor John Rooff is planning to construct 14 new houses on the former school property after the building is removed.

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