Officials seek information on condition of apartment building
URBANA — Champaign County Board members Thursday night approved appraisal and engineering contracts for the inspection of a long-vacant apartment building next to the notorious Cherry Orchard Apartment complex, shut down by health officials in 2011.
The board also approved an agreement with the city of Urbana to have its building inspectors perform inspections of the so-called Jones Building, a two-story, 16-unit apartment building just east of Cherry Orchard.
The county does not have building inspectors nor a building code. But there is a state housing code.
"We're seeking information about the current status of the Jones Building, the condition of it," Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher said following a brief closed session of county board members. "The goal here is to seek a (court) order authorizing us to conduct an inspection of the Jones Building so that we can determine its current condition."
The intergovernmental agreement with Urbana notes that the county board "is authorized to demolish, repair or enclose ... dangerous and unsafe buildings within the territory of the county."
But Fletcher refused to say whether the county wanted to raze the Jones Building. Last year, however, county planning and zoning director John Hall said the building "has to be removed."
None of the board's actions Thursday night was related to the 67-unit Cherry Orchard complex, located just east of U.S. 45 and south of Rantoul. According to a local real estate agency website, that complex is for sale at a cost of $850,000.
"I'm glad this finally got moving," Rantoul area Republican Stan James said of the series of votes on the Jones Building. His county board district includes both the Jones Building and Cherry Orchard.
County board members have been discussing the issue in executive sessions for months, several board members said.
The Jones Building is owned by K&S Property Management of Champaign, whose partners are Rick Stone and Andy Kurtz, who is the son of county board Chairman Alan Kurtz. For that reason, the elder Kurtz didn't cast any votes on the issue Thursday night, nor did he sit in on another executive session on the issue.
Republican board member Max Mitchell, a real estate agent from Champaign, also abstained from voting and excused himself from the closed session.
The Jones Building and Cherry Orchard shared the same septic system, which local health officials cited as inadequate and a health hazard when they closed Cherry Orchard in July 2011. Raw sewage was standing on top of the ground at the complex and effluent was running into a nearby farm field.
K&S was selling the Jones Building to Bernard and Eduardo Ramos, who operated Cherry Orchard under the corporate name Osococo, Inc., when the health problems were uncovered.
Also Thursday, the county board took final action on the dissolution of the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District, a small mass transit district that had been organized in 2006 as an attempt to block expansion of the larger Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
Among the 22 board members, two Democrats — Lloyd Carter and James Quisenberry — were absent from Thursday's meeting.