In a previous entry, I mentioned, City Clerk Brenda Cirtin wrote in an email to "JackeHammer" that Director of Building Development Services (BDS) Nick Heatherly, indicated BDS has "posted" Veterans Coming Home for a code violation (See Springfield Municipal Code Sections 74-391 and 74-392), and was awaiting his reply about when it was posted and the nature of the violation.
I'd also noted City Attorney Dan Wichmer had stated in an email, "In Feb of this year, BDS sent him a letter advising of purported improper uses. This letter was in addition to a letter from HHS (Health & Human Services) stating that their inspection to be sure that he was complying with his stated uses for the building per his application to acquire the building revealed that he was not in complete compliance with his stated uses."
When I did hear back from Cirtin regarding the violation BDS had posted, she wrote, "According to Nick, the property was posted on May 5, 2008, with a “Do Not Occupy” as they did not have a C of O (Certificate of Occupancy) to occupy the structure." Later, when asked if they had acquired a C of O after being posted, the City Clerk referred my questions to Nick Heatherly to answer. Heatherly responded, "August 11, 2008 a C of O was issued for a “Business Office” use." When asked if Veterans Coming Home was attempting to "occupy" the facility before the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy, Heatherly wrote, "They were in the process of setting up their office prior to the issuance of the C of O." So, my thought on all of that is this: It's up to the reader to decide whether "setting up" an office prior to use qualifies as "occupancy" or not and warrants an official posting of violation.
Regarding Wichmer's mention of a February letter, I was never provided a copy of a February letter and I did not ask for a copy of it...follow up for another day. Wichmer did not note what the "purported improper uses" were but, the fact they were "purported" rather than proven is a clue that the February letter was not an official "posting" by the City of ordinance violations.
Regarding Wichmer's other remark about Health and Human Services "stating that their inspection to be sure that he was complying with his stated uses for the building per his application to acquire the building revealed that he was not in complete compliance with his stated uses(?)" Well, Rice acquired the building from the Federal government, not the City, and I think it's fairly plain that had it been up to the City, Rice would never have been awarded the building in the first place. Further, I'm not sure of the process for complaint a City government is required to follow if an organization is not complying with stated uses when acquiring surplus property through the Federal government but, I'd assume a local City government would have to go through Federal channels to file a complaint. Action taken in that regard, it seems to me, would more likely have to come from the Federal government. Now, that is not to say the City cannot mandate Veterans Coming Home abide by City ordinance pertaining to the facility's zoning but, the City needs to prove there are violations of City ordinance before making a statement that, it appears, many perceived as a veiled threat that the City was preparing to shut the facility down for a year for non-compliance.
The whole thing seems to have been another "scratching-your- head- in-bewilderment-moment," compliments of the Springfield City Attorney's office, and then sensationalized by the Reverend Larry Rice through the pages of our local news paper. However, that said, I still feel it was important that the "Springfield News-Leader" reported on the issue for the very reason I stated in my original entry on the subject:
"...it all seems much ado about nothing for the moment (unless one considers how unhappy some City staff and some members of the City Council were at the time Rice was awarded the building...and unless one has a suspicious mind that the City is setting the stage for going after Rice on a trumped up code violation while it appears to ignore code violations of others it finds less unsavory....)"
Regarding the call I placed to Rice. If he has tried to return the call, I missed it. I've had to be out of the house for appointments the last two days after placing the call and my answering machine is not currently functional.