Counting on the kindness of strangers City, townsfolk taking steps to fix up unsafe home

Counting on the kindness of strangers City, townsfolk taking steps to fix up unsafe home by David Lias Only two options seemed apparent to members of the Vermillion City Council at its March 18 meeting.

It could follow the letter of its code enforcement law. It could force Jeff Nelson out of his home at 116 W. Broadway because city inspectors have deemed it to be unsafe.

Or it could find a more humanitarian solution to the problem. Especially after Nelson, who labors just to take a breath because of severe emphysema, told the council, "All I want to do is die in my home."

The city has opted for a loftier goal � to allow him to live in his home. The city council agreed to form a committee to explore ways of helping make Nelson's home safe.

"I couldn't vote for condemnation until I looked into this further," said Jere Chapman, whose term on the city council will end next month. Chapman and four other Vermillion men � Joe Grause, Dick Sunde, Louie Fostvedt and Neil Melby � agreed to serve on a committee to explore whether the house can be made habitable.

Those committee members have had a good look at the house. They admit it's in bad shape, but they think it can be salvaged with manpower, materials, and some funding.

Efforts are already underway to collect donated building materials, such as lumber, shingles, paint and furniture.

The committee has also established the Vermillion Area Citizens House Repair Fund at First Dakota National Bank for people who wish to make cash donations.

Committee members have discovered the structure is of significant value to the community.

"It is our understanding that the house is the last remaining house on the Vermillion bottoms that survived the great flood of the late 1880s," Sunde said.

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