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Appeal hearing scheduled for Hobart apartment owner

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HOBART — An appeal process has started in connection to an apartment building that was declared unfit for habitation last week.

Joe Gore, the owner of the apartment at 215 East St., was ordered to appear before the Board of Public Works and Safety on Wednesday, but he was asked to only comment on the action he has taken to secure the building.

City Attorney Heather McCarthy said state law requires Hobart to allow time for an appeal following the issuance of a “Do Not Occupy” order at the East Street apartment. She said she couldn’t speak to what is being appealed, but a hearing is scheduled to take place during the Aug. 3 Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.

Members of the Hobart community gathered Tuesday for a prayer vigil in support of Ukraine.

“We’ve done our inspection; we’ve done our due diligence,” McCarthy said. “He is afforded that right per state statute where he can then come and speak to the board. To this point, he’s been cooperative and moving towards compliance of the items the city’s identified which make the building dangerous.”

Hobart’s Building Department issued the “Do Not Occupy” notice last week at the apartment, which resulted in 11 families being immediately displaced.

The notice indicated the building was a fire hazard, hazard to public health and violates codes. Notable issues included electrical problems, blocked exits, unlit exit signs, water leaks, sewage backup, expired fire extinguishers, potential asbestos and black mold, unsanitary conditions and inoperable smoke detectors in units.

During Wednesday’s board meeting, Gore was asked if the apartment on East Street is secured and if no occupants are there.

He said a deadbolt lock is in place and the facility is vacant.

“I’m going to lock it and then post certain times when (former tenants) can access the building” to collect belongings, Gore said.

Sierra Oswald is among those who were displaced after the “Do Not Occupy” order was issued. She said she’s one of the fortunate people who has found another place to live.

“I told (Gore) I was going to stay because we had nowhere else to go at the moment, but then we found a nicer place, a better place, and it’s somewhat closer for me for work,” Oswald said.

Oswald said she’s spoken to Gore on the phone but hadn’t met him in person. She attempted to talk to him following the board meeting but was unable to say much as he left City Hall.

“He seemed nice and all,” she said.

Although Oswald has found another residence, she said many other families haven’t yet, and they are staying at a hotel or with family and friends.

She also said she was able to retrieve all of her belongings from the East Street apartment, but there are others who haven’t yet.

“It’s not a great situation for everybody,” Oswald said.

Councilman Chris Wells, R-5th, said he’s heard from some of the displaced residents recently through messages, and many organizations have stepped up to help them.

He also said the displaced residents are doing what they can to help each other. He said one person who found another apartment to live in has invited the other residents over to have dinner together, and the person has also offered to assist her former neighbors.

“Not only did she accept help, but then she turned around and started helping other people out,” Wells said.

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