Fire marshals can't inspect Ramos property

Inspectors for the state fire marshal were scheduled to examine a dilapidated apartment complex south of Rantoul on Tuesday.

But the caretakers who were scheduled to open the Cherry Orchard apartment units for inspection apparently left just minutes before the scheduled inspection.

Julie Pryde, director of the Champaign County Public Health District, said a county sheriff's deputy stationed near the entrance saw two men, believed to be Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, leave about 10 minutes before the scheduled inspection.

It marked the third time the Ramoses have not made the facility available despite scheduled appointments, Pryde said. On the first two occasions, the Ramoses called to reschedule, according to the health director.

"The fire marshal's inspectors are very irritated and will recommend a warrant to force (the Ramoses) to show up for the next appointment," Pryde said in an e-mail to state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin.

Pryde said she had contacted Hays, who arranged to have the fire marshal's office inspect the property. The property is within his district.

Inspections were made to the exterior of the buildings at the complex, which is about 2 miles south of Rantoul.

In addition to three fire marshal's inspectors, public health officials and two county Department of Planning and Zoning officials, including Director John Hall, were present for about two hours examining the property.

Public health officials had hoped all apartment buildings would be vacant. The department and other agencies provided time and resources to find previous tenants new homes, after stories about water and heat being shut off in the middle of winter, and unsanitary conditions, at the property.

But Pryde said a "for rent" sign was seen on the property, cars were parked there and a moving van was on the site.

"Nobody responded when we knocked on doors, and yet we saw at least eight people wandering around," Pryde said.

Hall said violations discovered in the exterior search primarily included unsafe handrails and broken windows.

Bernard and Eduardo Ramos are scheduled to stand trial Feb. 28 for failure to comply with an agreement with the health department in December to vacate five of the eight buildings at Cherry Orchard.

The agreement is part of a three-year-old case the health department has brought against the two for failing to connect the property's sewer and septic system legally.

Bernard Ramos was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine in June for criminal housing management for renting a Champaign apartment with health and safety hazards.

Ramos has served that sentence.

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