A Groveport resident told City Council Aug. 12 a lack of response by the city to questions about the water tower off Walnut Street cost her the sale of her house and ruined her dreams of retiring to Florida.
Jacqueline Papai gave a tear-filled speech at the council meeting, in which she explained the sale of her house at 131 Front St. was scheduled to close at the end of July but didn't because the city hadn't responded to requests for specific documentation.
She said the appraiser had concerns about the home being in the potential fall-zone of the tower, and thus the buyer's lender required documentation about its condition, the engineered collapse zone and insurance on the structure.
"I've been coming and asking Groveport for help since June, asking about how safe the tank is," Papai said.
She said the only thing she had been told was the water tower will be torn down.
"I went down to Florida to buy a new home to retire to, but now I've lost my buyers because they're saying the fall-zone is an issue ... my dreams have been washed away," Papai said.
"If that water tower was in my yard, you'd be down my throat to paint it and take care of it, yet you let it look like that," she said.
"And the building beside it looks terrible, too."
Until she has the documents she needs from the city or until the tower is removed, Papai said she won't be able to sell her house.
Neighbor Roger Parker said his recently listed home might not be saleable at this point, either, unless it is for cash.
"I'm her neighbor and I agree with her," Parker said.
"The letter she got back from the city wasn't specific to the certification that this water tank surely goes through and that would've helped," he said.
"Maybe you didn't have that information, but why don't you get it for the next time this comes up?" Parker asked.
"I mean, my house is for sale and I don't know what fall-zone I'm in."
Councilman Ed Dildine questioned Papai's real estate agent, Marylee Bendig, who has been selling real estate in Groveport for more than 30 years.
"I assume you've sold houses on Front Street before, so why is this a problem now?" he asked.
Bendig said it is up to the appraiser to record what he or she believes might be an issue; no appraiser had noted the tower as an issue before, but now there is a record of it that can't be erased, she said.
"This is the first time I've ever encountered this and I was quite shocked," Bendig said.
"But even though the appraiser said the property itself met FHA and HUD standards, they still wanted to know where the fall-zone is and the structural condition (of the water tower)."
City Law Director Kevin Shannon said the most recent inspection report does not specifically list information about the structural integrity of the water tower or the fall-zone, but also stated that there "are no structural integrity issues."
"I don't know what the requirements were in regards to an engineered collapse zone when the tower was built in the late 1930s," Shannon said.
"I have an inspection report from Caldwell I'll provide you," he said.
"We sought out various firms for annual maintenance and Caldwell will be coming out and doing the maintenance.
"Part of the process for taking down the tower is connected to building a whole new water plant which includes the pressure-relief valve to connect a backup to Columbus' water that will allow us to stop using the tower."
Caldwell is the Kentucky-based company the city uses to inspect and maintain the water tank.
Dildine asked that city staff follow up with Caldwell to get the necessary information to prevent this issue from happening again before the tower is torn down.
Bendig said she appreciated that, but it comes too late for Papai.
"She's out a lot of money and the buyers are out money now, too," Bendig said.
Papai said she believes the city's failure to keep the paint fresh on the tower is what ultimately started this chain of events.
"If that tower didn't look so bad, it wouldn't have attracted the attention of that man," Papai said.
"Let's don't spend a couple hundred bucks to put some paint on it, but if my house rots or my yard grows long, you'll threaten me with fines and now I don't care," she said.
"It's good all of you have this all worked out now, but my dreams are gone," Papai said.
"I lost my retirement dream. You people failed me."