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“Don’t forget us”: Residents face eviction in wake of court ruling

WEST FRANKFORT (WSIL) — For decades a building that stood adjacent to railroad tracks on Main Street in West Frankfort had been a source of concerns for firefighters.

One of Tom Jordan’s first lessons when he joined as a firefighter in 1976 was knowing just how severe the condition of the building was.

"(The chief said) if we had a fire in this building, it was going to be very difficult to get residents out," Jordan said.

He later became fire chief in 1987 and then mayor in 2010. No matter his title, his concerns over the building were clear.

"My first priority is public safety and the people that are in that building," Jordan said.

Earlier this month, the Franklin County Court reached a decision in a case that began with a complaint filed on May 4, 2017.

On November 5 of this year, the courts ruled in favor of the city to demolish the building because it had violated numerous building and fire codes.

Court documents show that the estimated cost for the fixes totaled upwards of $394,000, or ten times what city appraisers said it was worth.

The city posted orange signs throughout the building letting residents know that they have to leave the condemned building by Wednesday, November 20.

"I can’t get out to find a place to live because of my disabilities," said Joe Staley, a resident who lives with diabetes, COPD, congestive heart failure and other conditions.

He says he’s tried calling several residential areas to find an affordable place to live. Staley hasn’t had any luck trying to find a home that’s feasible under his monthly disability stipend.

"I don’t know who else to call," Staley said. "I can’t walk. I have a hard time breathing. I just can’t get out."

Fellow resident Wanda Steingruby planned to have Thanksgiving at her home. Now she’s scrambling to find a new place to live, after receiving her eviction notice this past week.

"I’m trying to get a shelter (in Marion) but I  have no way to get there," said Steingruby. "I have no car. I can’t drive. I’m a mess."

Jordan is focusing on asking local churches and other agencies to assist residents before the city has to tear the building down.

"Once that building is evacuated… then we talk about the time-frame about the demolition," Jordan said.

Meanwhile Steingruby is looking for any possible solutions and hopes that people will offer help.

"All I’m asking is for someone out there if they got a place for rent, or any place," Steingruby said. "Please let us know. Don’t forget us."

Landlord John Mize said through his attorney that he plans to file a motion to reconsider the case and plans to file an appeal if it doesn’t work.

He adds that residents will be reimbursed the rest of the month’s rent as soon as they have left.

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