‘Dangerous to the lives’: Belleville orders apartment residents to leave

Rob Nora residents forced to move

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Rose Leroy was asleep in her bedroom when a chunk of the ceiling crashed down on her on July 5.

And that was a week after a St. Clair County judge ruled the conditions at the Rob Nora Apartments at 7009 W. Main St. were “dangerous to the lives” of the residents.

Leroy, 56, and residents of about 30 other apartments in the complex have been ordered by the city of Belleville to leave the building by Wednesday. Leroy’s husband, Clifton Bowman, said he was glad the ceiling fan did not fall along with the dry wall and plaster. Bowman said his wife suffered headaches and has been treated by a doctor.

“She was laying in the bed and all this came in on top of her,” Bowman said. “And thank God that she’s here. This is pathetic.”

She was laying in the bed and all this came in on top of her. And thank God that she’s here. This is pathetic.

Clifton Bowman said about a ceiling falling on his wife

Circuit Judge Robert LeChien on June 27 ruled that building owner, A.D.J. Services LLC of Missouri, allowed the apartments “to become injurious to the health and dangerous to the lives” of the residents based the company’s “refusal to comply” with the city’s electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire safety codes. Consequently, LeChien permitted the city to revoke all current occupancy permits and he issued a permanent injunction requiring A.D.J. Services to “immediately” comply with codes and ordinance to make the building safe.

But Dale Helle said the work to bring the complex up to code will not be done by Wednesday, which is the deadline the city gave the residents to leave the complex.

“We’re doing the best we can. It’s been a very difficult process,” said Helle, whose wife is listed as an officer for A.D.J. Services LLC, according to Missouri state records. Helle, who previously lived in Shiloh and now lives in Springfield, Mo., said he serves as the property manager.

They (city officials) want everybody safe. I want everybody safe.

Dale Helle, property manager

Helle acknowledged the city has been pushing for the complex to be brought up to code.

“They (city officials) want everybody safe. I want everybody safe,” Helle said.

He said the complex is about 60 years old.

“It’s been very difficult to do this. These buildings are not designed for this,” Helle said. “It’s taking me a lot longer than what I would have liked or what anybody would have liked to bring it back up to code.”

City inspectors examined the Rob Nora buildings in November, according to city records. Here are some of the code violations they noted and orders they issued:

▪  Install dry wall with a one-hour fire rating on the ceiling of the basement or fire suppression sprinklers for the basement.

▪  Remove all extension cord wiring.

▪  Replace all rusted flue pipes and fittings.

▪  Install fire extinguishers on each level.

▪  Smoke alarms need to be hardwired.

▪  Emergency lighting required to illuminate shared exit corridors, common areas and stairways.

City inspectors returned to the property in May and found that the buildings were not up to code as requested.

“We have been very patient,” Eckert said. “We literally have been trying to work with the owners for years. The judge has taken some action at our request because we felt that we were getting nowhere.

“It’s unfortunate but the residents needed to go for their safety until this place can be totally brought up to code,” he said. “I feel bad for the residents and their inconvenience.

“They need to get relocated because every day they’re there is dangerous,” Eckert said.

Eckert said the city recently took similar action against the owners of a small hotel.

Ward 4 Alderman Raffi Ovian, whose district includes the apartment complex, said the fire department leaders reported the building did not meet fire safety codes.

Ovian said the city gave the building owners plenty of warnings to take action.

“The establishment where these people live is not safe” until improvements can be completed, Ovian said.

‘Not enough time’

Ovian said the city contacted the Catholic Urban Programs and the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department about helping the residents finding new homes.

Residents said they have received some assistance but several of them said the city did not give them enough time to move. Their notices are dated June 27 and they were told to leave by July 27.

But some residents said they didn’t receive the city’s letter until July 1 or July 2.

“Twenty-seven days is not enough time. My wife is sick,” said resident Willie Ball. He said his wife recently was hospitalized for kidney ailments.

Vernon Windom Sr., 64, moved to the Rob Nora Apartments about two years ago.

“They say it didn’t pass city code. I can understand that but we should have had more” notice, Windom said.

“Honestly, that’s ridiculous,” Windom said. “Where are we going to go?”

“They could give us a little more time, at least 30 days more,” he said.

Eckert said Friday he had yet not received any complaints about residents not being able to make the July 27 deadline to leave and Ovian said it may be a matter for the city attorney to review.

Helle said about half of the residents have left the complex.

Shantell Stewart, who said Helle has been a good landlord who would give people second chances when they had trouble paying their rent, also is upset about the amount of time residents were given to leave the complex.

Bowman echoed Stewart’s comments.

“We did not have enough time to get out.”

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