The owners of a dilapidated property at 1405 Ranch Rd. will now have until Aug. 12 to post a cash performance bond proving an intent to repair the house, or the city will begin demolition.
Mark and Donna Shaffer today appeared before Warsaw Code Enforcement Hearing Officer Larry Clifford for the second time in a month. On June 17, Donna Shaffer, noted as Donna Antonides on records of ownership, was given almost one month to bring Clifford evidence that she and her husband were moving toward repairing the home, which has sat vacant for approximately 6 years.
The city’s move toward action on the property began in November 2011 when Warsaw Building Commissioner Todd Slabaugh sent the couple a letter identifying all of the code violations and rendering the house unsafe. The order was sent with the assumption the property would be repaired.
On May 15 of this year, a second letter was sent. Still, with no movement on the Shaffer’s part, the city held a hearing June 17. (See story)
Today, Clifford appeared to have very little patience left when he heard the Shaffers admit that, while they have made some effort to clean the premises, he felt it was not enough to prove they are serious about saving the home.
Mark Shaffer explained, “We’ve gathered up at least 15 bags of trash” on a total of three or four occasions. Clifford responded, “That’s what I don’t understand … If I were here a month ago and the hearing officer and the city said you have to clean up this house and you’re here 20 times in the last month, why not take a couple bags with you and load them up every day? A couple bags a day.”
The Shaffers currently reside in Fort Wayne but both work in Warsaw. They explained to Clifford and Slabaugh that they would like to repair the home and ultimately move back in. Clifford said the couple has made little progress on cleaning it up in the last month and asked, “You’ve only been there three times and you work here? Why not every day?”
Mark Shaffer said he and his wife have contacted Lake City Bank, which holds the mortgage on the property, as well as various service agencies searching for financial help. “Usually the agencies just refer us to other agencies,” he explained. “We have not gotten call backs,” to which Clifford responded, “What that suggests to me is that they have nothing to give you.
“What I’m hearing is that you have been here 20 percent of the time in the 30 days to work on (the house). That doesn’t scream you want to save it. There’s a process to this and you’re not doing it.”
Neighbor and contractor Michael Alspaugh testified at the hearing that he again looked at the house and determined it would take about $20,000 in materials to make the necessary repairs without labor costs. Alspaugh said he has accompanied the Shaffers in their efforts to secure a construction loan from Lake City Bank, which currently holds the mortgage on the property. A meeting was supposed to take place last week, but has been moved to this Thursday or Friday.
Clifford moved the meeting to the property on Ranch Road where he and Slabaugh again inspected the house and, while they did note some general trash had been removed, they cited worsening conditions of the ceiling.
After the on-site inspection, Candy Little, assistant vice president of collections for Lake City Bank, was in attendance and informed Clifford that the bank has already charged off the mortgage, which still has approximately $16,000 remaining, and have placed a lien on the property. “That means we have taken it as a loss,” she explained.
Donna Shaffer said they are making weekly payments on the mortgage, to which Little responded that those payments are being applied toward the principle.
After hearing all factors and inspecting the property himself, Clifford ruled that, by Aug. 12, the Shaffers must have a $3,500 performance bond paid or the property can move forth to demolition that day. Further, the couple will be fined a $5,000 civil penalty for not complying with the orders.
If the bond is posted, the couple then has until Sept. 15 to complete roof repairs and by Nov. 15 to complete all remaining repairs.
A final hearing on the matter will be held regardless at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17.