Instead of promise of repairs, city sends homeowner a bill 'Appears to be mistake,' housing spokesman says

resident fumes over delay

May 27, 1998|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,SUN STAFF

Eleven months after the city demolished the rowhouse next door, William Gray is waiting for repairs for damage that he says the wrecking crew inflicted on his house.

On Saturday, he opened an envelope from City Hall to find, not a promise of repairs, but a bill for $2,357.94 -- the cost of shoring up his side wall that was exposed by the demolition. The bill sternly warned that if he didn't pay by June 19, he would be charged interest at a rate of 1.5 percent a month.

"It appears to be a mistake," said Zack Germroth, a spokesman for city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

"We're on an automatic billing system," Germroth said, blaming computer error. "A computer automatically kicks out a bill."

Gray can appeal the billing. "It looks like he's got a very legitimate appeal in that he had nothing to do with the demolition process next door," Germroth said.

He said city workers will visit Gray today to assess the situation.

Usually, costs are billed to the owner of the demolished house -- including the cost of shoring up the party wall of an adjacent rowhouse.

DTC Gray's problems began when the crew dispatched by the

Department of Housing and Community Development showed up in June to knock down two vacant Patterson Park rowhouses -- 207 and 209 N. Montford Ave. -- that had been condemned by the city as unsafe.

Gray, who lives at 205, says he was left with a large hole in his kitchen wall, a damaged cornice, and cracks on inside walls and on the outside front wall.

Today, the cracks remain. The hole in the kitchen wall is covered by plywood installed by a city crew, which also built a wooden brace intended, Gray said, to bolster support for the second floor.

City workers assessed the damage and did the patchwork at the time. "They said it would be cheaper to tear it [the house] down," Gray recalled.

"They have not been back," he fumed.

Gray wasn't the only homeowner affected by the demolition gone awry.

At 211 N. Montford Ave., which Yvonne Peaks had owned for two months, the damage was so bad that the city ordered her out and knocked down her house.

At 213, the owners were ordered out, too, and, according to Germroth, given city assistance in finding and financing a new house.

Their house was boarded up and the city applied stucco to the exposed party wall.

Now, almost a year later, Henson's agency has scheduled it for demolition by a company that takes houses apart by hand.

Pub Date: 5/27/98

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