A St. Charles homeowner who has had a construction project languishing at his home since 1975 was released Thursday after spending two weeks in jail for contempt of court.
The judge still wants Cliff McIlvaine to connect to the city water supply, a condition specified in a September 2011 agreement that McIlvaine signed, and said if jail doesn't force him to do that, maybe the threat of the city demolishing the home on the 600 block of Prairie Street will.
Contact information ( * required )
"Now that the city has filed a notice to demolish, I think that is an alternate recourse that is available," Kane County Judge Thomas Mueller told McIlvaine.
McIlvaine was jailed for contempt of court two weeks ago after failing to meet numerous deadlines to complete his project by September 2012. Mueller offered McIlvaine one last chance to agree to connect to the city water supply and use a cistern at his home only for laundry and bathing, but McIlvaine refused.
Thursday, after two weeks in jail, McIlvaine again refused, saying the city was putting up "roadblocks."
"The city by their actions doesn't want the project complete. They've wasted another two weeks by not having me there," McIlvaine said.
"Respectfully, Mr. McIlvaine, I don't think that you could be any more wrong in your assessment," Mueller replied.
More than a dozen of McIlvaine's supporters attended the hearing and two exchanged a high-five after Mueller ordered McIlvaine released.
"I believe we can still get this thing finished up without having Cliff stay in jail," said Jim Webb, a friend and owner of a construction company with whom McIlvaine has contracted.
Last week, attorneys for St. Charles served McIlvaine with a 15-day notice indicating the city wants the options of fixing code violations itself or even demolishing the home if it is deemed unsafe. Any action would have to be approved by Mueller, but the 15-day period will be up the next time McIlvaine is in court for the case on Sept. 20.
Brian Armstrong, an attorney for the city, was not immediately available for comment. Phil Luetkehans, another city attorney on the case, has said the city does not want to demolish McIlvaine's home and just wants the project completed.
Steven Gottlieb, a West Chicago resident and friend of McIlvaine, noted that McIlvaine has volunteered for 50 years for an emergency management agency that assists the city and that the cistern has been part of McIlvaine's home since the 1920s and works fine.
"It's just a shame they're treating him like this," Gottlieb said. "He needs to get out (of jail). Cliff is a stubborn guy. He need to be out to do something like this. I agree (1975) is a long time to be working on something, but you cannot go back and change the rules. I just think the city is wrong for pursuing this."