Damage from repair error at Peoria Housing Authority costs taxpayers

A stupid mistake on the audience’s dime? We can understand that.

But a cowardly vamoose to avoid responsibility? That’s harder to take.

Both happened recently in one of the newer units on Harrison Houses. A group of roofers arrived one morning and started ripping shingles from the top of the unit – only to suddenly stop and run away.

Oops! Wrong adress.

That may seem comical, apart from the consequences. The damage resulted in major repairs for the Peoria Housing Authority.

How does PHA pay bills? Federal tax money.

In other words, you.

How did this dark madness come about? The following reports come from the PHA (who discovered the mess) and the Peoria Police (who later reviewed the PHA surveillance footage).

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Just after 8 a.m. on September 15, a white truck and another vehicle pulled up to 1905 S. Griswold St., which is on the corner of West Krause Avenue. The five-unit townhouse is bright and sharp, like all of the newer homes at Harrison Homes.

According to a police report, a group of “men” pulled ladders from the vehicles and climbed onto the roof.

“The males appeared to be part of a roofing crew,” the report said.

Downstairs, in one of the units, resident Crystal Carter, 41, heard the sound of footsteps on the roof. She was surprised, as the PHA had not notified her of any work to be done there. She wondered if Santa had come earlier?

“No,” she says with a smile. “I just thought they were solving a problem.”

The roofers began to scrape and rip shingles from the roof, throwing them to the grass below. The clapboards piled up for about two hours, until work stopped abruptly.

“The crew realized they may have been at the wrong address and left,” the police report said.

The roofers didn’t hang around, as can be seen on the surveillance tape. They got out, got into the vehicles and got out. Fast.

Later, at the sound of silence, Carter went outside to see what had happened to all the work upstairs. She saw that about half the roof was gone, with clapboards underneath in a haphazard heap.

“That was weird,” she says.

That was the same reaction from a passing PHA employee.

“She saw this huge pile of shingles with bulging spikes on the grass,” said Jordan Sondag, the PHA’s director of modernization and development.

She was unaware of any planned repair work in the area and checked with the PHA office.

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“We made sure no one asked for repairs,” Sondag said. “Those roofs are pretty new.”

Why the mix-up? Sunday can’t think of a sensible reason.

“We assume they started tearing the roof off and realized they were in the wrong place — and left the roof in ruins,” he says.

It’s the last part that’s annoying. Mistakes are accidents. Flight is not.

Meanwhile, Sondag contacted a roofing company to repair the damage. The bill was not cheap.

“It was significant,” Sondag said. “I’m not sure I’m free to say, but it was thousands of dollars.”

The PHA would like to find the roofers to pass the bill. However, from the surveillance footage, the police were unable to identify the men, their affiliated company, or the license plates.

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Could the PHA spot them again? Well, if they were that quick to get it out of the way, it’s unlikely they would come back to do other work in the area and risk being noticed.

“If they just traveled through the area and made a roof here and a roof there, we might never find them,” Sondag said. “We should eat that price.”

That “we” isn’t just the PHA. It belongs to all of us.

And eat those costs? Because of some no-account weasels?

Doesn’t taste too good.

Phil Luciano is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at [email protected] and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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