By Pam G. Dempsey/CU-CitizenAccess.org - A Champaign County judge extended a temporary restraining order Friday that gives public health officials the power to keep one building at an unsafe apartment complex north of Thomasboro closed.
Judge John Kennedy granted a 10-day restraining order late last week after several witnesses testified that at least one building on the Cherry Orchard Village apartment complex is still being rented.
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Produced by Pam G. Dempsey and Sean Powers, Illinois Public Media, with additional reporting by Acton Gorton and Jenn Kloc
Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, managers of the complex, were ordered in April to vacate all of the building on the property after they were found guilty of failing to legally connect and repair sewage systems for six of the eight buildings on the property. In addition, they were fined more than $54,000 following the conclusion of a civil case filed by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
During several inspections, county health department officials have found raw sewage on top of the ground and discovered sewage flowing into a neighboring farmer’s tile. The case was opened in 2007 and filed in court in 2010 after the Ramoses failed to remedy the problems.
The raw sewage poses serious health risks for both the tenants at Cherry Orchard and people they come in contact with – such as Hepatitis A, E. Coli and Salmonella , health officials said.
The temporary restraining order allowed officials to board up one building on the property – known as the “Jones Building”- post signs warning people to keep out and secure lids on open septic tanks.
Public health officials also spent last weekend evicting about 60 people from the Jones Building. Those tenants moved to Danville, said Julie Pryde, administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Yet people continue to live in another building on the complex - a two-unit apartment building on the west side of the property, she said.
“I have no idea who is living up there,” Pryde said after Friday’s hearing. “We have seen at least four people, we’ve also seen four vehicles and a dog so it’s anybody guess how many people are actually occupying the buildings over there.”
The judge granted an extension of the restraining order until the next hearing on the case, which is to take place by September.
Bernard and Eduardo Ramos did not come to Friday’s hearing or have representation. They have repeatedly declined to comment to the media and have yet to be arrested on two outstanding warrants. Kennedy amended the arrest warrant last week and required that the two be jailed until the Cherry Orchard property is empty or the sewage system is repaired.