Crew demolishes Belleville home woman fought to save
Melinda Harris' fight to save her Belleville home came to a crashing halt Thursday as a wrecking crew hired by the city demolished the house at 600 Wabash Ave.
"I tried to work with the city to keep the house but I just didn't have the funds so I had to walk away from it," Harris said. "I just have to keep my head up and just move on."
The home had been condemned after two contractors did not finish renovations, and the city declared the home "dangerous because it is structurally unsafe, damaged and dilapidated, and dangerous to the neighborhood," according to the city's lawsuit filed last year.
Harris said she spent about $40,000 on the home with the contractors but one contractor died and the second one did not finish the job as promised, she said.
In a YouTube video posted in November, Melinda Harris made an emotional appeal for help to save her home from demolition.
"They condemned my home. I don't have anywhere to go," Harris said in the video. "I don't have any more money to finish this work."
Before the home was demolished Thursday, part of a roof truss was hanging over the side of the home and the sidewalk next to the home was blockaded by the city. Uncompleted frame walls had been exposed to the weather for months. A blue tarp was attached to the home to keep the rain out.
Harris, along with her family and friends, went to the site as debris was being removed Thursday. She started crying as she talked about what lead to the demolition.
A friend, Randy Keller, criticized the city for giving TIF grants to developers but would not give Harris any assistance.
"They gave her nothing but headaches," Keller said.
Harris also was upset with the city.
"Most of the contractors that I hired to do work, the city kept stopping the work," Harris said.
While Harris was at the site Thursday two Belleville police officers responded for a "keep the peace" call but Harris said neither she nor her family and friends received a ticket.
Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore said Thursday’s demolition was the culmination of a "sad situation."
"There was definitely a time to show empathy for this homeowner and we did and we tried to guide her through the process and after such an extensive period of time, the neighborhood was directly suffering and it became a safety issue," Elmore said.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn issued a court order in January that said if Harris did not have the home torn down by Feb. 3, the city could send her the bill for demolition. Harris missed that deadline and on Monday night the City Council agreed to pay $14,800 to Shafer Excavating to tear it down.
Elmore said the city typically will place a lien on a property after it demolishes a building.
Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND