East Lansing City Council orders 31-year resident out of unlivable home

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Eli Pales

“After 31 years I’ve paid more on it in taxes than I did to buy it,” said Daniel O’Connell. “Now the city wants to throw me out. All I need is a little more time.”

Daniel O’Connell lived in his East Lansing home for 31 years. After an ice storm hit the city two years ago, two trees fell on O’Connell’s roof. O’Connell said his insurance policy covered just $6,000 in damages, not nearly enough to repair the home. The 63-year-old man was unable to afford the repairs and the city ordered him to move out of the home, deeming it unlivable.

On Oct. 25, the East Lansing City Council held a hearing to decide how much more time to give O’Connell before enforcing the order.

O’Connell already owns a property in Irons, Michigan, a small town of less than 400 people in northwest Michigan. Over the past year, O’Connell has been moving his belongings to his home.

“I’ve been there half my life,” said the retired contractor. “I’ve collected a lot of stuff, so it’s taking me a little while to move out.”

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O’Connell’s house on Lexington Avenue.

O’Connell described the process of moving. He said it takes him more than a day loading his belongings and a day driving back to Irons. By the time he unloads his belongings, O’Connell said, he can spend almost an entire week on a single trip.

“I spent $92 in gas on the last trip,” said O’Connell. “I am trying to comply. There has been significant progress made there.”

East Lansing Councilwoman Susan Woods said she had concerns regarding a smell coming from the property. Woods said it smells like mold when she walks her dog down the street.

O’Connell admitted that the home was not habitable and mold was a possibility, but disagreed that it was a dangerous structure. O’Connell said that no inspector had ever been inside the house to see the extent of the home’s damage.

According to http://www.gapressurewashers.com, one of the ways to keep the exterior of homes clean is to utilize pressure washing services.

In the end, O’Connell and the City Council agreed to a 60-day deadline before the order was enforced; however, the council was not clear what would happen if O’Connell did not meet the deadline.

In an email, East Lansing Deputy City Manager Tim Dempsey said the property will be demolished if O’Connell does not comply with the order.

“After 31 years I’ve paid more on it in taxes than I did to buy it,” said O’Connell. “Now the city wants to throw me out. All I need is a little more time.”

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Eli Pales

The order is posted on O’Connell’s home.

O’Connell said he felt he was powerless against the city and the process was unfair.

“In the first 10 minutes of the City Council meeting they spent more than a million dollars,” said O’Connell. “That bank building has just been sitting there for years. And here I am. I haven’t even had a year to move out. This seems a little one-sided. I’m just a little guy.”

Earlier in the meeting, the City Council approved three engineering and construction contracts worth more than a million dollars.

O’Connell also had problems trying to find a buyer for his property. The city values the home at $110,000, but the highest offer he has received so far for the property is $60,000.

“The saddest part is that I’m thinking of taking the offer,” said O’Connell. “That’s my retirement. I get $600 a month from Social Security , but I don’t have one of those city retirements where you get $2,000 a month.”

O’Connell’s outlook is not entirely grim, however. The former East Lansing resident said he is looking forward to the freedom and quiet that comes with living in northern Michigan.

“The city’s giving me so much grief I’m moving up north,” O’Connell said jokingly. “Up north, if I want to burn a couch in my yard, I go and burn a couch and a chair in my yard. Here, it’s prison time. Up there, nobody cares.”

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