City officials testify in first day of hearing on tearing down St. Charles house
A St. Charles building inspection official testified Wednesday he saw little evidence of progress on the 37-year construction project at Cliff McIlvaine's Prairie Street house.
And a Fire Prevention Bureau officer said that piles of construction materials, tarp-covered cars and an electrical wire could hurt firefighters should they ever be called there to put out a fire.
Both testified before Kane County Judge David Akemann during a hearing on the city's request to be allowed to either demolish the buildings or to finish the project and bill McIlvaine.
McIlvaine, who is representing himself, asked how the piles could impede firefighting, saying that trees on his property were more likely to interfere with getting water on to a fire. But Lt. Brian Byrne said the items could trip firefighters, especially at night or in dark smoke. Byrne also said officials would be reluctant to have firefighters get on the roof to ventilate smoke and heat, because he doesn't know what the structure is beneath the rubber membrane McIlvaine has put up.
The insulated electrical cable typically would be buried in the ground. Byrne said firefighters could be electrocuted if they nicked it. McIlvaine said, in his questions, that there were circuit-breakers that would stop the flow of electricity if a short was detected.
McIlvaine's only witness to testify was James Webb, owner of Royal Builders and a nearly lifelong friend. Webb agreed in 2011 to use his workers to finish the project, under a consent agreement McIlvaine signed with the city. Webb testified he thought he could be a good middleman, given his good relationships with St. Charles building department officials and McIlvaine. "Cliff is difficult to work with because he has his own certain way of doing things," Webb said.
He testified that he has not had to tear out any of the work McIlvaine has done over the last 20 years, because it meets current city code. Webb also testified he and McIlvaine's former attorney "talked him in to it (the consent agreement)."
McIlvaine asked him several times if the city had thrown up "roadblocks" that caused "months and months" of delays.
"They did not force me to do anything. They asked me to," Webb said of having to obtain new drawings for the roof and steelwork. "They let us keep working on the project; it didn't slow us down as much as months, maybe a few days."
The hearing continues at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva.