DES MOINES, Iowa -- It's a feeling of helplessness and disrespect. "They think that because we are low-income, that we are all uneducated and we don't understand our rights and it's ok for us to live like this," said Sheryl Hutto.
Residents inside the Argonne Apartments near downtown Des Moines say the conditions are beyond acceptable and have been for years. City of Des Moines' Neighborhood Inspection Zoning Administrator SuAnn Donovan agrees and said, "We are very concerned about the welfare of the tenants should a fire happen. Some of the sheet rock and things done create a fire hazard and will burn up through the building should it start on fire."
Hutto said, she was impacted severely by the lack of adequate maintenance. "I broke my leg last year and it would have been really nice if the elevator had been working so I wouldn't have had to crawl up and down the stairs on my hands and knees."
In May the city cited the building for over 100 code violations, that list is now down to around forty. "We shouldn't have to live like this. He should do what's right and take care of his building and his tenants period."
They say since the ownership, listed as Joseph Cordaro's JARCOR LLC hasn't, the city informed tenants in December that they are forcing them out come January 31st. Donovan said, "We are not happy about having to cause removal of tenants in any circumstance but on the other hand we can't in good conscience allow them in a building we know is a fundamentally unsafe and fire hazard that may trigger worse."
It is an impact that will affect as many as thirty families who did nothing wrong. "They are on disability, they are on limited income. I mean the seventy-five year old woman down the hall from me, she's just out," said resident Jeff Patterson. Hutto said the repairs that have been made, may not be enough, "The inspector told me today that the manager and lawyer think evrything is ok and it's not ok. What they did was nothing."
Owner Joe Cordaro is out of the country but through a telephone conversation, he says he has spent over $200,000 on the building since he was notified in May. Cordaro believes he has a plan that will satisfy the city of Des Moines when he return and the residents would not have to be displaced.