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Officials pressure Co-op Board to make a decision on apartments


Feb. 22, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

SPRINGFIELD — The city will take the legal steps it has to force the board of directors of the Hill City Homes Co-Op to move forward in a decision to either seek funds to repair the tornado-damaged apartments on Hickory Street or demolish them and rebuild.

The move came from a meeting conducted by City Council Vice President Bud Williams on Feb. 14 of his Planning and Economic Development Subcommittee.

Tattered blue tarps are still covering the roofs of several of the boarded up units of the Hill City Homes Co-Op and residents expressed their frustrations concerning repairs to their homes.

Williams said he called the meeting at the request of state Rep. Benjamin Swan whose district includes Hickory Street.

Swan said he had heard numerous complaints about the city's involvement in the repair of the complex as well as the role of the co-op's board of directors is playing.

Speaking for the group of residents at the meeting, Rhonda Sherrell, a 25-year resident at the co-op, described how the complex was damaged by the June 1, 2011, tornado, which created "mass hysteria." Many of the residents were displaced and homeless for as long as four months, she said.

Sherrell said the board of directors is at odds with some of the residents about how to move forward with either repairing the apartment units or demolishing them and seeking to re-build. Reports that Springfield College may wish to buy the property have complicated the issue.

The residents of the co-op are not considered renters, but owners, Sherrell explained.

Assistant City Solicitor Lisa Desousa said, however, the Hill City complex is not a typical co-op situation. The residents are considered owners only as long as they live there and have a legally limited equity. The board, she added, represents the residents in all matters.

Geraldine McCafferty, director of the city's Office of Housing, explained that after the tornado, she met with the residents three times to discuss their options. McCafferty added the city is waiting for the board to tell city officials how they want to move forward.

Williams spoke of the city's response to homes affected by the tornado on Hickory Street and said, "It's not your fault. It's the city. It was horrendous."

McCafferty said, "The tenants very clearly are not in agreement." She added that the board must come to an agreement before the city can take any steps to help.

Williams said that besides the measures Code Enforcement can take to press for a resolution from the board, he will also ask the Secretary of State to investigate whether or not the board has been in compliance with issuing annual reports and conducting yearly meetings.

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