Currently in Archives. Click here to return to the new CU-CitizenAccess.Org website at any time.

County health officials begin eviction process at Cherry Orchard

By Dave Hinton/Rantoul Press/Champaign-Urbana Public Health District officials, accompanied by sheriff’s deputies, went door to door at a rural apartment complex Friday afternoon to inform tenants that they had until Saturday morning to vacate the premises.

Julie Pryde, public health administrator, said many tenants at Cherry Orchard Village apartment complex were not at home, and some did not open their doors.

She said health officials and sheriff’s deputies would return Friday evening to inform the remaining tenants that they must leave.

The power to evict was the result of a temporary restraining order approved Thursday by Champaign County Judge John Kennedy.

Pryde said it “will be up to the sheriff’s office” to determine what to do if tenants didn’t open their doors when they returned. She said 10 of the 17 apartments at the “Jones Building” — the easternmost building at the site — are occupied.

“I don’t know if there are one or 10 people living” in each apartment, Pryde said.

Translators assisted at the scene, and Pryde said all of the tenants understood what was happening.

Kennedy granted the temporary restraining order on Thursday following a nearly four-hour hearing.

Kennedy also ordered apartment managers Bernard and Eduardo Ramos jailed. He also amended two arrest warrants issued in May for the Ramoses — on civil and criminal contempt of court — after they failed to show up for a hearing.

Now, if the Ramoses are arrested, they will remain incarcerated until the sewage problems at Cherry Orchard are fixed, either through the vacating of the property or repairing the sewer system. Previously, Kennedy had ordered that the two had to post the full amount of bond on each warrant — $20,000 apiece — to be released.

In April, the Ramoses were ordered to close down the apartment complex until sewage problems were remedied. They were also fined more than $54,000 because of unlawful discharge of sewage, unlawful rental of noncompliant property, failure to obtain a construction permit and unlawful repair or alteration of a sewer system.

The judgment came as a result of a civil case filed by the health district.

Health officials testified of seeing raw sewage on top of the ground around the property, and in some cases children running through the effluent.

The temporary restraining order remains in effect until July 17. The court will meet again on the case July 15.

At the site Friday, Jim Roberts, director of environmental health for the health district, showed a photo of Bernard Ramos to those assembled.

“If you see him, I’m sure the sheriff’s deputies would be interested,” Roberts said.

Before venturing onto the site, health officials and sheriff’s deputies took steps to maintain safety.

“There is fecal contamination on the property,” Pryde said. “The north and south ends are where the septic systems are not working.”

She also warned of electrical cords that were running across part of the property.

Cords were seen near Multi-Flo aerators south of the apartment building. Pryde said because the septic system is not working, someone had placed sump pumps in the aerators to pump out effluent.

Those entering the property wore gloves and were warned not to put their hands near their face.

Most, if not all, of those living at Cherry Orchard are migrants working on detasseling crews. Pryde said she has been told that more migrants are on the way.

Signs were to be placed at the site Friday afternoon, informing that the complex had been shut down.

It had not been determined where the tenants would stay. Pryde said all motels in Rantoul were full due to the I&I farm show in Penfield, and no housing complexes were willing to take anyone. She said officials with the former Chanute hospital, which houses migrant workers, said the property is full. Pryde said the former hospital is licensed to house 450 people.

Pryde said tenants would most likely stay in Thomasboro or Champaign-Urbana.

It is the second time that public health officials, assisted by several social service agencies, have had to find housing for Cherry Orchard tenants. One family for whom a new home had been found in Rantoul in February moved back to Cherry Orchard, Pryde said.

She said the family was told by someone at Cherry Orchard that all the problems at the complex had been resolved.

Some tenants had complained about power and water being shut off indiscriminately, even during the winter.

Pryde said Illinois Migrant Council officials from Peoria were headed to Cherry Orchard to assist with the relocation of the tenants. Also assisting have been the Salvation Army, United Way and Community Service Center, Rantoul.

The process of closing down Cherry Orchard has been a long one. The health district’s initial complaint was filed in 2007.

“This is really a ... waste of government and community resources,” Pryde said of having to evict the tenants when the Ramoses had been ordered to shut down Cherry Orchard earlier this year.

“We hope this is going to be the end of it.”

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.