FOX 11 Investigates follow up: Veteran still trying to replace damaged home
Wisconsin's weatherization program is blamed for destroying his home. Now Vietnam veteran Jerry Monson of Appleton is struggling with the state to make it right.
Monson fought for his country. And now he's fighting for his home.
"I'm trying to get my own place back. For 38 years I was fine," said Monson.
He's no longer fine. He says he's moved on to anger and frustration.
"Frustrated, yes. I'm past angry already," said Monson.
Monson gave FOX 11 Investigates a tour of his mold-invested mobile home last fall. He was still living in it at the time, even with the ceiling caving in from rain-soaked insulation.
The problems arose earlier in 2014 when the Outagamie County Weatherization Program made free repairs to the home and damaged the roof, causing multiple leaks.
When the local program failed to make amends, our FOX 11 Investigates report prompted state officials to examine the problem.
Outagamie County ultimately got its insurance company to cover the cost of a replacement mobile home. The problem now is the zoning laws don't allow for a replacement on single-family lots.
The law does allow for repairs or rebuilding, but that would cost tens of thousands more, according to John Gillespie, who's been working with his friend Monson to sort this all out.
"It's a quandary of laws," said Gillespie. "The state law says that if Jerry's mobile home was in a mobile home park, even within the city of Appleton, he could just replace it with a duplicate home, but if it's on private property then he can only repair, rebuild it, he can't replace it."
Appleton Inspections Supervisor Kurt Craanen has also toured Monson's mobile home. He declined an on-camera interview, but in a letter to Gillespie regarding the law he wrote: "I spoke to the city of Appleton's Legal Department and the City does not believe this statute allows for a new trailer to be brought to the property."
FOX 11 Investigates caught up with two Appleton-area state legislators invited to take a look for themselves at the damaged home. We asked them: "When a state program leaves a home in ruins, should the homeowner be made to pay?"
"I think many times when we're passing legislation in Madison you can't think of every problem that may crop up. But when something like this happens you look at it and say there needs to be something in the law that says that we can't damage things," State Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville.
"He certainly has a valid concern and I've got to go down and meet with our legislative counsel attorney, look over the statutes and see if there's a way we can change those statutes to help him out," said State Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton.
Time is of the essence for Monson. Last fall after our FOX 11 Investigates report aired, the Outagamie County Housing Authority stepped up and provided a rent-free apartment for Monson. But that offer has now run out.
Insurance money and donations top $60,000. That is just about enough to replace the mobile home on his property. But without a change in the law, Monson is out of luck.
"It seems no matter what we do or try to do they got another regulation or law and they just keep on going," said Monson.
"If we have to follow the city code we have to raise another $35,000 and I don't think we can do it. Certainly not this year," said Gillespie.
Murphy and Roth are currently exploring the legal options, and hope to offer a solution soon. A solution Murphy says will not only make the situation right for Monson, but take a closer look at the bigger picture at the cost to taxpayers involving the state's weatherization program.
"I saw a stat, we're spending $10,000 a home to weatherize, and we're actually in some cases damaging the homes more than helping them," explained Murphy.
FOX 11 Investigates last year uncovered a legislative audit on the state's Weatherization Assistance Program run by the Department of Administration.
The audit reviewed 251 home inspection reports from 2011 to 2013. Of those it found 80 percent had at least one instance of incomplete or unsatisfactory weatherization work as identified by DOA or its contractors.
"I think we need to look at this from top to bottom and make sure that we are getting some value for our taxpayers when we do a program like this," said Murphy.
The program wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars on Monson's home in an effort to make it more energy-efficient, when, in reality, damage to the home just made it unlivable.
FOX 11 Investigates will keep you updated on the progress to get the state statute changed and get Monson back into his home.