Housing admits its billing mistake Aide to meet homeowner wrongly charged for damage during demolition

May 28, 1998|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,SUN STAFF

A city housing official acknowledged yesterday that a Patterson Park homeowner was mistakenly billed $2,357.94 for a block retaining wall erected when the adjacent rowhouse was demolished and said the charge would be dropped.

Reggie Scriber, a senior aide to Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, visited William Gray's house at 205 N. Montford Ave. yesterday along with Robert Donald, a housing inspection superintendent. Gray had complained on Tuesday about receiving the bill for the wall and about unrepaired damage which he said was caused by the demolition last June.

"He got the bill by mistake," said Scriber, adding that the charge would now be assessed against the owner of the long-abandoned house at 207 N. Montford Ave.

Later, a Henson spokesman acknowledged that the damage to Gray's house was caused by the demolition. "We want to make it right -- that's the bottom line," said Zack Germroth, the spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Scriber said he would meet again today with Gray to discuss various options -- which he would not spell out -- for dealing with the demolition damage and to "see if he wants to remain here."

He added, "We're leaning toward trying to fix it up."

Gray, 52, said the demolition left him with a large hole in his kitchen wall, cracks in the front of the house and on inside walls, a damaged cornice and a missing downspout. Gray said he had a view through the kitchen wall directly into the rubble-filled basement of the demolished house.

Hours after the hole opened up, a city crew covered the inside with plywood and built a brace designed, Gray said, to bolster support for the second floor. A few weeks later, a crew built the block wall to shore up his wall.

Since then, said Gray, no one from the city had been back -- until yesterday -- despite complaints aired at community meetings with City Hall aides.

"I've done had enough," he said, seated at his kitchen table next to the plywood patch.

Gray, a retired accountant, wants the city to pay him the appraised value of the house and help him find a new home.

"Get another house and move. That's the only option."

Later, Germroth said that's a possibility that would be discussed with Gray.

"It may be better in the long run to look for another place for him," he added.

One option, he said, is for the city to swap houses with Gray.

Whatever happens, he added, if Gray moves out, "We will compensate him for his property in some fashion."

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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