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Reports from the Scene of 14 E. Jessamine

MCGAUGHEY POSTING (2/12/06) interior photos of house at 14 E. Jessamine St.

A number of forum members have driven by the house at 14 E. Jessamine Street in St. Paul to inspect the exterior. Now, if you're interested, you can see a dozen photos of the interior of the house after Nancy Osterman has rehabbed it.

Go to the Watchdog website at: http://watchdog-news.com. On the home page, there is a link titled "Nancy Osterman's house at 14 E. Jessamine Street" at the top with a yellow border. Click on that. Then there is another link to the photos.

It's obvious that this is a beautiful house which the City of St. Paul plans to demolish next Wednesday. CHECK OUT THAT KITCHEN! Who wouldn't love to have something like that.

City officials and inspectors have a cavalier attitude about the rights of people to be secure in their homes. In this case, they want to tear Nancy Osterman's house down. They say it's unfit for human habitation. See for yourself.

We're going to try to post the Truth-in-housing report about this house in the next day or two. Osterman's house passes with flying colors. But again, the city says that the house needs to go. Osterman wouldn't sell it to the inspector's friend for $40,000.

 

MCGAUGHEY POSTING (2/12/06) FLASH - St. Paul officials break into 14 E. Jessamine

The sad saga of the house at 14 E. Jessamine seems to be entering the "goon" phase.

In the late morning today, Julian Jayasuriya, the nominal owner and taxpayer, was inside the house when he heard a noise. He discovered that several St. Paul city employees, attorneys and inspectors, had broken into the house through a back window. A number of police officers were with them. They threatened to have Jaysuriya arrested if he did not leave immediately. The city employees had lots of equipment with them. They were, of course, taking pictures but perhaps doing other things as well.

When Nancy Osterman heard of this, she rushed over to the house along with another man who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the city. They were looking things over in side the house. The city employees were gone by then. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Inspector Steve Magner, accompanied by two inspectors from West St. Paul, was there. He informed the two that the City of St. Paul now had control of the property. He angrily informed them to get out of the house or they would be arrested.

One must ask why the city employees had to break through a window at 14 E. Jessamine if they had legitimate access to the building. The visit also raises the possibility of the city's tampering with evidence in advance of our protest demonstration tomorrow.

Some may also be interested in photos of buildings in poor shape that the City of St. Paul is choosing not to demolish even as it goes after Osterman's property. They can be seen at http://www.watchdog-news.com.

 

MCGAUGHEY POSTING (2/15/06) FLASH: Apparent burglary today at 14 E. Jessamine

A man wearing sunglasses, believed to be St. Paul housing inspector Steve Magner, was caught today removing building supplies from the garage behind the house at 14 E. Jessamine which the city of St. Paul proposes to demolish tomorrow.

Called to the scene, Watchdog newspaper editor Jim Swartwood caught the incident on film. He plans to develop the photos and post them on the newspaper's website at http://www.watchdog-news.com. They should be available for viewing now.

I am told that Julian Jayasuriya, who owned the building materials, has sought a court injunction to prevent further removal of materials from the property. A judge ruled on the matter in the mid afternoon. Reportedly, the St. Paul city attorney has argued that the removal of materials was 'a mistake'.

Evidently the judge ruled in Jayasuriya's favor since, later in the day, a van was spotted returning some of the materials to the site. There were also reports of ripped carpeting.

This situation resembles someone stripping tires, batteries, etc. off an abandoned car in the middle of the night. Though tacky, a far-worse thing is for the Mayor and City Council to persist in plans to tear down the house itself.

 

MCGAUGHEY POSTING (2/17/06) TRO violated at 14 E. Jessamine

The editor of the Watchdog newspaper reports that he observed crews disconnecting utility lines to the house at 14 E. Jessamine after the court issued its temporary restraining order at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15th. A photograph of him standing next to the backhoe was taken approximately one hour later.

It's unclear whether this incident represents the I-can-do-anything-I-please mentality of the St. Paul inspections department or is an innocent mistake. Perhaps someone at City Hall was unaware of the restraining order or forgot to notify the excavation crew to cancel a previously scheduled order.

This is significant in view of the city's claim that the house has to be demolished because the current owner, Mr. Jayasuriya, did not comply with required procedures - pulling permits, completing work on time, etc. In this instance, the city did not comply with conditions imposed by the court.

I continue to believe that the only valid reason for demolishing a house is if it poses a clear danger to occupants and others in regards to health and safety. The removed asbestos, if there was any, is no longer on the premises. If the city is worried that sheetrocking conceals faulty electrical work, for instance, surely some of it can be removed on a test basis to look at the quality of the work underneath. Earlier allegations that the first floor was being supported by a tilting hydraulic jack have been shown to be ill-founded.

I would take exception to some postings which say this is all one big conspiracy theory and none of it can be believed. Most factual assertions are supported by photographs, sworn affidavits, and eyewitness accounts. The Watchdog newspaper has posted much of this evidence on its website at http://www.watchdog-news.com for all to see. In addition, our protest demonstration on Tuesday at 1 p.m. was, in effect, an open house which allowed any interested person to inspect the interior part of the house. Many availed themselves of that opportunity including television crews.

Look, the best outcome would be for the city to swallow its pride and negotiate an agreement to lift the condemnation and require the current owners to sell the building to some other party, approved both by the city and the sellers. That way, Nancy Osterman could get the modest sum of money that she and her family need to get on with their lives. Also, St. Paul taxpayers would have a house worth $230,000 to $287,000 on the tax rolls, bringing in revenue immediately for the city.

Alternatively, the court should appoint an independent evaluator - not the West St. Paul inspectors that Steve Magner brought with him when he threatened to have potential witnesses arrested if they did not leave the house immediately - could do a thorough inspection of the house to determine its condition with respect to health and safety. If the house passes that test, it should stand. If it's shown to be unsafe, it should be repaired. Only if it cannot be repaired should it be demolished.

I would point out that, in the past, official claims that repair costs would exceed the value of the house have been based on highly dubious methods of calculation. in his statement, Mr. Kessler does not say how he arrived at his cost estimates. However, if he's worried that the front part of the house would collapse if the tilting hydraulic jack - which was, in fact, two solidly positioned screw jacks that have been there for at least 30 years - fell over, experts have told me it would be a simple matter to insert some other kind of support beneath that beam in the crawl space.

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