TV-6 Investigates: Rock Island home demolitions


ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) — Sharp eyed neighbors may have spotted two large signs pop up on some Rock Island homes. They’re legal demolition notices. Neighbors have complained about these two homes for years. They asked TV-6 Investigates to find out why it takes so long for some homes to come down.

Holes in the roof, broken glass, two-year old unlivable warnings posted on the doors. These are the homes Rock Island homeowner John Gottilla wakes up to every day.

“Just to look out my back window at this,” said Gottilla.

He worries about his property value and the neighborhood kids living near these derelict properties.

Gottilla said, “I’ve put up temporary fences to stop them coming in and out between the properties, there’s large panes of glass hanging out.”

His neighbor Earl Smith has lived here 23 years. Both say their complaints to the city fall on deaf ears.

Smith said, “The city don’t care about it.”

Gottilla said, “It’s very annoying to live next to a property that should be demolished.”

Rock Island’s Chief Building Official Thomas Ayers said he sympathizes with the complaints, but he said the City’s demolition budget is limited by money and the law.

Ayers said, “We can’t just go in and take somebody’s house just because, that’s not right and it’s actually fundamentally illegal.”

Ayers said Rock Island has a list of 100 homes to be torn down if they’re not fixed up. But with an average budget of $200,000, he said the City can demolish about ten a year, leaving many homes sitting.

“It could be ten years, it probably won’t be,” said Ayers.

Ayers said that list constantly changes. Homes on it are typically not maintained.

Ayers said, “If you’ve got a hole you can toss a cow through in a roof, the structure deteriorates very rapidly once that happens.”

The City reviews its list three times a year to move up homes that become too dangerous to leave alone.

Ayers said, “It may not be a problem this year, but two years from now we may be going oh my goodness we’ve got to get this down before it squashes some neighbor kids.”

City records show these properties have had a long history with the city. Their story may be ending. Ayers staff found some additional money to demo them. The legal notice to start the demo process is posted. But more time must pass before these houses can come down.

Smith said “I’ll be 82 next year, I don’t think I’ll live 25 years to get these house torn down.”

The demolition crews can’t come soon enough for Gottilla.

“They’re pits, they’re an eyesore,” said Gottilla.

Rock Island tries to get homeowners to fix up properties before they reach the demolition stage. Inspectors issue violation notices and take property owners to housing court where a judge can issue hefty fines if a property isn’t repaired.

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