BLOOMINGTON — The city of Bloomington lifted a no-occupancy notice Wednesday evening, several hours after a city attorney requested it because part of a ceiling reportedly fell on an infant at an apartment.
The property is owned by a business associated with landlord Wayne Pelhank, who is facing nearly 800 city code violations at other properties.
His property manager, Ed Duran, denied the accusation about the baby even though he said nothing to that effect when he appeared at a hearing in the city's administrative court earlier in the day.
The city posted the no-occupancy notice at the apartment at 1903 Peach St. after hearings at City Hall related to Pelhank's alleged housing code violations at that property, at a nearby Gettysburg Drive apartment building that was destroyed by a fire 11 days after city inspectors found 226 code violations on Jan. 30, and a third Pelhank rental property at 1027 W. Mill St.
After the hearing on the Peach Street property, the tenant contacted the city asking that the no-occupancy order be lifted because the ceiling had been fixed and the family wanted to stay in the apartment.
A city supervisor verified "that repairs were ongoing," said city Deputy Corporation Counselor Angela Fyans-Jimenez. "However, he was comfortable removing the (no-occupancy) placard so long as there weren't people in the room that repairs were happening in."
Earlier Wednesday, Fyans-Jimenez notified Pelhank's attorney, Eitan Weltman, that the apartment was going to be condemned by the close of business Wednesday. She added that she was first informed about the Friday incident during Wednesday's court proceedings.
Fyans-Jimenez said she did not know if the infant was injured, but plans to discuss the incident with the Bloomington Police Department and other authorities to see what, if any, follow-up action is needed.
Pelhank did not appear in court Wednesday, but his attorney, who was out of town, participated by telephone.
Duran attended the court hearing, but said nothing to refute Fyans-Jimenez's claim before Administrative Court Hearing Officer Steve Mahrt that part of a ceiling had fallen on the child.
Several hours later, Duran contacted The Pantagraph and said the child was not struck by any ceiling material and that the family still resided in the apartment.
"There was a drip above in the ceiling, but the baby was moved before the piece of drywall came down. The baby was never hit," said Duran.
The owner of the apartment is listed as Empire Townhomes LLC, with Pelhank and Twin City attorney Jay Reece named as contacts and members of the company.
Reece had no comment about the Peach Street apartment, but said he is not involved in the management of the LLC. He referred all questions to Pelhank, who is the LLC's manager. Pelhank could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The next court date in that case was set for March 7.
In the Gettysburg Drive case, Pelhank was ordered to pay $110 in court costs. City officials were hoping at Wednesday's hearing to find out whether his insurance carrier plans to repair or demolish the 12-unit building destroyed in the Feb. 10 fire; the blaze displaced 29 people.
"It was represented that the insurance (company) has not made a determination as to what they're going to do at this time," said Fyans-Jimenez.
That case will come before the administrative court again on March 7.
Pelhank had 572 pending code violations for five apartment buildings in the 900 blocks of West Front and West Grove streets.
Some of those citations have been dismissed after code violations were fixed, said Fyans-Jimenez. But Pelhank still faces fines of $17,500 for nearly 80 code violations that must be fixed before he appears in court again on March 28.
If the problems are corrected, the fine will be dismissed, said Fyans-Jimenez, adding the landlord will then need to fix a final batch of code violations at those five building before that case is resolved.
"We're working with all of the (Gettysburg Drive fire) tenants to make sure they are taken care of," Duran said after the court hearing. "Everyone who had a deposit coming back has gotten them."
Some tenants displaced by the fire have moved into other buildings he and Pelhank manage, so their deposits will be transferred to those residences, Duran added.