Elgin residents worried about losing homes after erroneous letter from city

More than a week after a tornado tore through Elgin, some residents were shocked by a letter from the city that made them worry they were going to lose their homes.

Chris and Davina Cielencki and some of their neighbors received notices from the city saying their tornado-damaged homes were unsafe and they were to get demolition permits within 30 days. 

"It was panic," Chris said. "It's craziness that them as a city knowing what happened through here, that shouldn't even be an issue. Let people recover a little bit first, not a week after, to put people on, 'am I going to lose my house for sure now from a bulldozer from the city or what?' and you just barely survived it from a tornado."

"It was already hard being hurt by the tornado, but a lot of stress. I have multiple sclerosis, so I'm already having some numbness in my fingers," Davina said.

The Cielenckis disagree their house is unsafe, saying the city only looked from the county road and didn't closely inspect the house.

"My house doesn't look like it's falling down. It's just three windows that have boards on it," Davina said.

The city says there was an editing error in the letter.

"The letter should've said demolition permit or a building permit," Amy Miller, public information officer for the City of Elgin, said.

A corrected letter went out Friday afternoon.

"Being a professional and being a city, you would think before you signed your name you should proofread stuff, it's just a bunch of excuses," Chris said.

The city says no one is losing their house, and it's up to homeowners to decide what they want to do.

"They could decide to pursue repairs, it truly is a one-on-one situation. No structures are the same. Everyone has different damage, different levels of damage, and so each property gets assessed individually," Miller said.

She also says if anyone has questions, they should reach out. 

"We are here to help, and we hope that folks will call city staff, and let us know what the questions are, and let us help them find solutions, and help them resolve the situations that they're in," she said.

However, for some residents, the whole situation has caused a lot of worry.

"It's just kind of scary because what if I come from work and there's bulldozers tearing down my house? Our pets, our belongings, it's scary," Davina said.

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