posttrib
COARSE 
Weather Updates

Farmer claims Hobart owes him for damage during clean-up

Updated: January 9, 2013 6:05AM



HOBART — Local farmer Robert Berndt told the Board of Public Works Wednesday the city owes him about $50,000 for machinery, vehicles and other items that he said were destroyed or went missing when city workers helped clean up his Grand Boulevard properties as instructed by the board.

Berndt said code enforcement officer Ken Gagliardi took eight vehicles, which he had to sign over to a title company. He said some machinery is missing.

Berndt said he would compile a list of what has been destroyed or has disappeared and would give it to the city.

“It comes to thousands of dollars, but I just want a peaceful settlement,” Berndt said.

The board, which has been citing Berndt for unkempt properties for about a decade, agreed in September to send public works employees to help remove clutter inside and outside Berndt’s house at 6851 Grand Blvd. and remove debris from his farm located across the street.

Berndt said he owes the city $8,700, according to Gagliardi.

City attorney Anthony DeBonis told Berndt that he or his attorney should submit his claim against the city and the city would respond to it. DeBonis said Clerk-Treasurer Deb Longer would even help him file the claim, if needed.

“But remember, the city can only pay what the law allows,” DeBonis said.

DeBonis also said he advised Gagliardi to suspend writing further violations against Berndt regarding his cattle.

DeBonis said Berndt has two violations: Allowing his cows to roam onto other peoples’ property and possibly hauling garbage food in vehicles to feed the animals.

“This discussion needs to take place privately so something can be worked out,” DeBonis said when Berndt denied feeding his cattle food plucked from garbage containers.

Meanwhile, building official Mike Hannigan said while cleanup work has progressed at both properties, there is still more to do.

Hannigan said before Berndt can move back into the limestone house, it needs to be re-evaluated to ensure it’s livable. Hannigan said he found a cat by Berndt’s house even though Berndt was told not to feed them. Around 30 feral cats were captured at Berndt’s house this summer, many of which were destroyed.

Berndt said he needs to get approval from his niece, who owns adjacent property, to build the fence for the cows on her property.

Berndt will need to appear again at the board’s Jan. 16 meeting, by when board member Thomas Ehrhardt said cleanup work should be substantially complete. Berndt will need to provide a timetable detailing when the remainder of the work will be done.

In other matters, the board approved the sale of a new fire truck at a cost of $189,000. Fire Chief Brian Taylor said the truck is a demonstrator model, resulting in a large savings from the $289,000 purchase price for the same model off the showroom floor. He said demonstrator models are built for shows.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.