By PAM G. DEMPSEY/CU-Citizen Access
A bench trial has been scheduled for Jan. 24 for a Champaign father-son landlord team who have not yet complied with an agreement they made with the Champaign County Public Health Department to vacate five buildings in an apartment complex in rural Champaign County.
Bernard Ramos and his father Eduardo agreed in November to empty five of the eight buildings known as Cherry Orchard apartments by Dec. 20. The agreement is part of an ongoing three-year-old case the health department has against the two for failing to connect the property's sewer and septic system legally.
The health department's case is based on a September 2007 complaint where inspectors noticed sewage and wastewater flowing from the property's septic system into a nearby farm field.
The Ramoses oversee the property, which is south of Rantoul on U.S. 45. The complex is used mainly to house migrant workers. Tenants have complained to the media about mold growth and inadequate heat, among other conditions.
As of Dec. 17, two of the five apartment buildings remained occupied, according to an inspection by the health department.
Inspectors on Monday found that at least one of the two buildings was still occupied.
Though inspectors were not able to confirm the status of the remaining building, the health department is assuming that it also remains occupied based on the inspector's Dec. 17 findings, said Christina Papavasiliou, assistant state's attorney who is representing the county.
During a status hearing on Monday, Bernard Ramos asked for additional time to find another lawyer since his previous lawyer, Don Parkinson, withdrew from the case in November. According to court documents, Parkinson withdrew because of lack of payment and lack of communication with his clients.
"We're looking to hiring an attorney," Ramos said. "We need time to save money."
Judge John R. Kennedy said Ramos has known about the case since the health department filed a civil complaint in court last winter. Though Ramos asked for the case to be continued until February, Kennedy scheduled it for trial in January.
As part of the agreement with the county health department, Ramos and his father had until Dec. 3 to empty two buildings on the property and until Dec. 20 to remove tenants from the remaining three buildings.
Papavasiliou said that if the buildings are vacated by the trial date, the health department may allow the Ramoses to wait until warmer weather to make the necessary repairs to the sewer and septic system.
Ramos declined to comment after Monday's hearing.